Monday, July 27, 2009

Niagara Snapping Turtle

While driving in west Niagara Falls, Ontario, today, we came upon this large snapping turtle sitting in the middle of the road, barely moving. No cars were stopping as this creature sat there, barely crawling slowly along the pavement. We stopped and tried to coax the turtle towards the grass; this took about 15 minutes! Though she(he?) was a slow crawler on that hot road, she was surprisingly feisty when first approached, her eyes were very aware and followed you, and she would always turn to face you and snap, so it was a challenge to coax this reptile across. Picking her up was out of the question; this prehistoric-looking creature strangely had a swarm of flies and wasps(!?) buzzing around it. She was surprisingly quick to suddenly shoot her head out and snap, and her neck was quite powerful and long too. Her barbed tail and large claws on all four legs were quite fearsome, as seen below:
Photos by R. Bobak, Jul.27, 2009. Click photos to enlarge!
Above: This turtle had a pretty large mouth. The oval shell was easily about 14-16 inches long front-to-back; side to side the shell was for sure 12 inches wide. This was a pretty big turtle! Her tail was for sure another 12 inches long; it had a row of ancient looking triangular scales; it was very thick at the shell, then tapered to a thin point. Her head was at least the size of a pop can, maybe even a bit larger. When at first we hesitantly tried moving her physically, she felt surprisingly heavy; I'd say this turtle was maybe ten pounds.
Finally, above, she was coaxed into the grass, and we left this creature far enough that hopefully she would find her home pond and wouldn't cross back again. We coaxed her by waving a shirt in front of her, while standing safely behind her; the turtle would focus and watch the shirt, then snap at it. Everytime she decided to snap at the shirt, her whole body kind of bounced with a soft thud about six inches forward. The most disheartening thing was that passing cars did not even bother to stop. It is almost certain this turtle would have been run over.

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