Sunday, May 24, 2009

Properly Named Wildlife

A few weeks ago I saw a woman who had stopped her car and was using a piece of cardboard box to push a turtle to the side of the road. Now I know a reason why that is a good idea.

Today we saw a large turtle in the middle of our side of the road. It was very large. Naively I got out of the car and picked up its hefty self with both hands, holding it at the mid-point of its shell. Turtles are harmless creatures that simply hide in their shell when they feel threatened, right? There is nothing to be afraid of.


Was I ever startled when the turtle in one quick motion launched its long neck and tried to bite me! Fortunately I had only lifted it about 6 inches off the ground at this point so it didn't have far to fall when I dropped it in shock. WTH? Did it just try to bite me with that big beak? The "snap" I heard when its mouth slammed shut brought to mind the phrase "snapping turtle." Oh. It continued to extend its neck an impressive amount while it repeatedly snapped its curved beak at me to make sure that I didn't miss its meaning. It was clearly in a "bite first, ask questions later" mode. This is their standard mode, I have now read. It's a result of being too big to hide in its shell so it is a very defensive creature when it's not in the water.

Okay, so I realized I wasn't picking up the big beast and carrying it to the roadside. What to do? We had a fan still in the box in the back of the vehicle so hubby used the box to encourage (nudge) the turtle across the road--in the direction in which it was trying to go, of course, so it wouldn't be trying to cross the road again. It kept snapping at the cardboard and at one point had such a hold on it that it wouldn't let go. It had long claws that it was using to grab on to the gravel in the road, as if that would anchor it to the ground so we couldn't pick it up again. As if that ever crossed our minds!

Eventually my husband was able to figure out that if he kept the box a few inches behind the turtle it would stop trying to bite and would start heading away. In turtle speed it was moving quickly. It reached the edge of the road and started crawling down to the creek. Due to the angle of the ground, it ended up rolling down the bank, rolling over and over much of the descent, and landed on its back in the creek. Oh crap. I started looking for a long branch to use to turn it over. But wait--his long neck stretched out and he used his head to push off the ground and flip himself upright. That is a very strong neck because he was not a small turtle! Then he continued along in the creek, happily back in the water he knows best.

So Mr. (or Ms.) Snapping Turtle made it safely across the road, I learned that not all turtles retreat into their shells when they feel threatened, and I was glad that I still had all ten fingers attached to my hands. All in all, it was a good morning.

(I did not take the above picture, it came from an informational site.)


mountainmelody said...

Yikes! I had no idea that some turtles couldn't fit inside their own shells. Glad you--and the turtle--are okay!

W. Latane Barton said...

Ouch... sure glad that turtle did not bite you. Dangerous critter! How sweet of your hubby to help it cross the road so it would not end up a turtle pancake.

countrypeapie said...

Wow. Thank goodness we've only ever found the sweet little box turtles that fit inside of their shells. I'm glad you still have all your fingers!

Lythrum said...

I'm glad that you didn't get bitten too, I hear that they can do a lot of damage.

The Country Experience said...

I saw another one of these crossing the road today. It must be egg-laying season.

MM, yeah, the bottom portion of their shell is much smaller than they are.

Latane, I had no idea a turtle could be dangerous but this one definitely is for someone unaware of it as I was!

CPP & Lythrum, from the sound of the noise when it snapped its beak shut, I shudder to think about the damage it could do. Its size gives it away, now that I know about it, as well as its large tail. Picking it up by its tail is supposed to be a safe way to handle it if necessary. I'll let someone else try that. ;)

edifice rex said...

Oh, man, when I first saw the photo and started reading I thought ,oh no! My grandmother always told us that if a snapping turtle manages to grab you, it won't turn loose until it thunders. And there may be some truth in that. A friend on mine's dog got bit and he had to turn the turtle over on it's back and beat on it's stomach to get it to let the dog go. It had the dog by the nose!
Another reason to be careful wading in creeks around here.

Floridacracker said...

Next time ... if there is a next time, grab it by the stout end of the tail and lift. When you do, hold it at arms length or it will get a hold of your leg or whatever portion of your body is in neck length.

Woody said...

Next time make turtle soup!