We watched each other for several minutes. When I got out my camera, it raised its chin some, following me only with its eyes. Only when it was convinced that I was there to stay did it slowly turn and amble off as seen in this video I posted on Youtube.
By the time I got back to the house and described it to Barb it had grown to 16" long, but measuring it with a stick a few days later, it came in at a little under a foot. Snapping turtles are said to rarely bask in the sun. This however was the first warm day after a long cold snap and there was no sign of egg laying so I suspect it was just enjoying some down time.
|Salamander eggs stranded on bank|
I have a confession to make. In 1996, having just bought our place on Bull Creek, I found a snapping turtle laboriously crawling across the field headed, I thought, for the creek. I had always heard that they could wipe out all the fish in a pool and responded by taking its life. I now know that they represent no significant danger to the fish population in the creek and still feel a little guilt over this barbarous act.
I went ahead and put the salamander eggs back into the pond several inches from shore, planning on moving them often if needed. If the turtle gets a few, I figure I owe it one. Snapping turtles can live for 40 years in the wild and the one I killed 17 years ago may have been its loved one.
Aside from taking naps and enjoying the water, the snapping turtle and I share another trait - we are both totally omnivorous. According to the MDC online field guide they eat "insects, crayfish, fish, snails, earthworms, amphibians, snakes, small mammals and birds. However, up to a third of the diet may consist of aquatic vegetation. Carrion may also be consumed." They kill other turtles by decapitation, either as a protection of territory or an inefficient form of feeding.
Now I routinely stop to check on my new friend. It is always buried in the leaves of the pond, minding its own business. I can only hope it can forgive my past ignorant brutality to its family.
More detail is available at tortoisetrust.org.