Thursday, May 30, 2013

Saving a snapping turtle

She isn't very old judged by the size of her shell but with all the cracks in it, she's had a hard life
Every year in May, the female snapping turtle crawls out of her pond, finds some gravel or mud to dig a hole in, lays her eggs, and crawls back to her pond. Usually this happens earlier in the month but with our long winter, turtle day has been later. The baby painted turtles though, have long since hatched I see.

Just as I was finishing up an early morning bike ride, I found this turtle with  a concerned lady  hovering over it. The city recently installed new crossing stations along the street behind my house. Some cars treat this street as an entrance ramp to the nearby freeway. Meanwhile many kids have to cross it at their peril, more so since they have limited busing. Grass was ripped out during the installations. Then they reseeded covering the seeds with a hay mulch and covering the hay much with nylon netting without considering the turtle.This poor turtle is stuck in the netting. It frantically dug a hole trying to free herself.

This lady was about to pick it up by its shell.
If you do that, she'll snap your fingers off.

How do you know its a she? I was asked.

Only females leave the pond to lay eggs.

In her country, which I assume is India, they don't have biting turtles. The only safe way to move a snapping turtle is to grab its thick tail, which makes it extra mad, snapping and hissing. While I did this, she attempted to break the netting with a stick. The turtle snapped away at the stick.  Finally she was free but headed across the sidewalk to another area of netting. I tried to corral her into a safe zone, being hissed at and snapped at for my efforts but eventually she was headed towards her pond.

My co-rescuer walks a lot and had seen several other turtles that day, which were not in peril. She had no idea that they were snapping turtles, alligator snapping turtles I added.

I can bike but I can barely walk. Some how I sprained some muscle around my hip running the other day. It does feel better now but I will bike until I feel no pain. Today would not be a good day to run anyway. Already hot and humid. And already Josh has a full line of errands for us...
Later edit
The safest (for the turtle at least) way to rescue a turtle in harm's way is NOT to drag it by its tail I read later as it could injure the tail. You are supposed to lift it right under the tail by its PLASTRON (undershell). Now this would be tricky as a) when stressed the turtle emits musk from glands near there b) its long neck can reach its hind paws and it isn't afraid to snap at you. This method might be fine for a small turtle but if you have a 30 pound plus turtle, balancing it might be difficult.

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