Saturday, October 23, 2010

Baby Snapping Turtle Update

Last October I posted about a baby snapping turtle I found in the water garden. Since I didn’t want to end up with a large snapper in the water garden, I took the baby out. It’s been living on my desk for the past year and seems to be thriving.

The egg tooth is gone from the end of its nose, although it’s kind of hard to tell because of a water droplet coming out of the left nostril. Some people have asked me why I’ve kept this turtle. The answer lies in part with Ohio law. I didn’t want the turtle in the water garden, but Ohio law states that a captured reptile or amphibian must be released near where it was found. My only release option, besides putting it back into the water garden, was to let it go in the yard. It was very cold when I found this guy and the nearest suitable habitat was a quarter of a mile away. I didn’t think it would survive a release of that kind and I didn’t want to just smash it beneath my boot heel, so I put it in an aquarium.

The yolk attachment area has healed nicely. So why didn’t I release the turtle when the weather warmed in the spring. Again, it had to do with Ohio law. If kept for more than 30 days, a wild caught reptile or amphibian cannot be released.

Using the photo I took last year, I positioned the turtle so the rear of its shell was exactly where it was before and then I framed the shot so the scale would be the same between the old and new shots. Shell length has gone from 1.1 inches to 1.8 inches in one year. You might wonder why I didn’t just give the turtle to someone else. Ohio law says that reptiles taken from the wild in Ohio may not be bought, offered for sale, traded, bartered, or given as a gift. It looks like the two of us are stuck with each other.

The head has become much more wedge shaped. Most of that is caused by the thickening of the neck. So you don’t think that Ohio law is designed just to make baby turtles stick to you like fly paper, I should point out that each rule is designed to protect the health and vitality of wild reptile and amphibian populations. Moving animals from one location to another is an easy way to spread disease organisms. In these days of mysterious declines of reptiles and amphibians, it’s important that people don’t become disease vectors. Animals kept in captivity are apt to become infected with disease, so it’s best that they don’t rejoin the wild population. The law is also designed to keep Ohio’s wild reptiles and amphibians from being taken for commercial purposes, such as the pet trade.

The little guys do a wonderful job of mimicking the adults. On land, the turtle acts as though its bulk is too great to move without being buoyed by water. If it had the brains for it, I might think this guy was trying for a little sympathy.

I took the turtle outside in a little carrier filled with water, so he could stay warm while I was setting up for the shots. When I brought him back in, the only thing on his mind was getting something to eat. I think that’s all he ever has on his mind.

He downed a few mealworms before returning to his normal home.


  1. Thanks for the interesting story and showing your turtle too. I checked wikipedia and found out its shell can grow up to 20inches. That's large! How do you plan to keep it when it grows up? Also I wonder - if you took an amphibian and didn't release it in 30 days does it mean according to Ohio law that you can/should register it as a pet?

  2. Hi Steve....At first when you said you had him on your desk my bruised brain had it just crawling around not contained. lol : }
    It looks like you may have a problem...will he get alot may have to have an indoor pool installed and you could swim together!! lol : }
    That picture of it upside down makes me wonder if that's what I looked like when I fell over backwards!!

  3. Hi, Alexandra. If he gets too big, I’ll probably have to make an outdoor pool just for him. The law doesn’t require any registration, but if you do keep more than four it requires you to have a permit.

    Hi, grammie g. He’ll be living outside when he no longer fits in my aquarium. It would be fun to have a pool inside. I’d love to have one of those tropical sun rooms I’ve seen at the zoo.

  4. I can tell you're a sucker for a pretty face. :) He is a cutie, that's for sure! But, I am also wondering what you'll do with him when he gets a whole lot bigger.

  5. Well Steve, for your sake, here's hoping he (He or She?)doesn't grow up and convince a "special someone" to move in some day.

  6. Hi, Lois. I feed him a healthy diet intended to keep him growing at a moderate rate, so it will probably be a few years before he outgrows my aquarium. Of course, I wouldn't mind having an excuse for building another water garden.

    Hi, Mel. If he does start a family, I guess I could always create a turtle farm. Turtle meat is a heart healthy alternative.

  7. I didn't know all that about Ohio law - interesting (even if I no longer live in the Buckeye state)! I was going to ask what on earth you're going to do with him when he grows up, but it looks like others have already covered that.

  8. Hi, Rebecca. Most people never hear about these laws.