Thursday, March 24, 2011

Snapping Turtle

I was out at the pond checking on some Wood Frog eggs I had seen over the weekend. I was looking at the right spot, but what I found didn’t look like frog eggs.

Out of the water, it’s easy to identify a Snapping Turtle. The back of the shell is always camouflaged by algae or some other unsightly mess that allows the turtle to sit inconspicuously on the bottom of a pond or river.

The eyes catch even the slightest movement. The tiny turtle brain has a limited number of programmed responses. If something moves, you bite it. If it happens to be food, you eat it. If it is danger, you scare it away. It’s a one bite fits all occasions situation.

I’ve always thought the Snapping Turtle shell was poorly designed. The upper shell looks much too large to house the snapper head, while the legs can’t even be fully withdrawn. The design has proven itself over millions of years, so I guess it’s this way for a purpose.

The lower shell leaves much unprotected, but the turtle isn’t normally found in this position. Even if something were to attack the lower side, that hide is about as tough as any animal produces.

I’m wondering if this is responsible for the sudden absence of Wood Frog eggs. Could that be a frog egg stain in the turtle’s mouth? I’ve seen Raccoons pull frog eggs onto the bank and consume them, but they usually leave a jelly mess behind. I don’t think those eggs ever left the water.

Jaws and claws are the Snapping Turtle’s dining tools. Anything too large to swallow is ripped apart by the sharp claws and strong front legs.

This is certainly a jolly face. I was trying to keep the camera just outside the turtle’s strike range. Even if he had struck, I’m pretty sure he would have gone for the camera lens and not the fingers to either side.


  1. Such a lovely series of Portraits of a Snapping Turtle. :)

    What a pretty face!

  2. Hi Steve .. a face only a Mother could love lol
    Pretty amazing photos of what I would definitely stay away from at all cost!! The next to the last photo is great!!
    Actually one was coming up the side of the road toward my front lawn last year and I kept heading him back toward the pond...he was very persistent ,but finally decided I was not a force to be reckoned with !! haha!!

  3. Hi, Lois. He does have a cute face.

    Hi, grammie g. That second from last shot is what a turtle looks like when you tickle its belly.

    Thanks, Ted.

  4. Great photos! Your last comment proves that you're a turtle whisperer!

  5. Hey Steve, what ever became of that baby snapper you adopted?

  6. Hi, Mel. He's currently in an aquarium on my desk. I have plans to build an outdoor enclosure for him this summer.