Our Prehistoric Visitor

Wow, I thought last month was a lot of work to meet my quota, but this month has not been ANY easier.  It would probably be simpler if I started a little earlier in the month (or actually pre-wrote the posts, but I’m not going there!)  Today’s entry is coming to you from the road as were on our way to Lincoln to meet the parents.  Since there isn’t much else to do in the car I’ve cranked up the laptop along with the Verizon hotspot and  here we are.  Before you panic, Linda is driving.  If you recall from yesterday, we recently had a unique visitor to the homestead (link here).  Turns out this was not the only interesting creature to find its way to our place.  As some background, I had spent a significant amount of time reworking our landscaping.  This included removing the crappy mulch we had used previously, putting down all new fabric and back filling with all new mulch (about 3 tons of it).  To be honest, it looked pretty awesome when it was all done – a nice reward for all the hard work.  Unfortunately, that lasted less than a week.  One night something decided to dig holes all over the mulch pulling up sections of fabric in various places.  I was pissed and spent a significant amount of time hurling insults (my mother would not be proud) at the raccoons that were clearly responsible for this vandalism.  This started an annoying loop of fixing the holes, waking up to more holes the next day, hurling insults, fixing holes… you get the picture.  One Saturday night we came home around 1am and sure enough the mulch was torn up again.  The fabric was ripped up more than usual this time with what appeared to be a new sense of vigor.  Our youngest poodle (and largest at 10 pounds) made its way from the car and made a beeline to one of our bushes.  To my surprise it wasn’t for the reason I expected – he started sniffing around in a cautious manner that caught my attention.  On closer investigation I noticed THIS!

I have seen a lot of turtles in my lifetime but this has to be the largest specimen I have ever seen outside of captivity.  I did make a quick apology to the raccoons in the area.  This moment was not going to be wasted so I dashed off for the camera .. after, of course, getting our dogs safely inside.  To be honest I have never really engaged turtles before.  I’ve moved a boxer turtle off the road before but I was very naive when it came to this creature.  Want to know how naive?  Well, the first thing I thought of was to provide a size reference so all my readers would have a good understanding of the situation.

Be sure and hit the jump to see how this turned out (I think you’ll get a few chuckles

Linda happily took these pictures while I proceeded to get try and get the best reference angle.  Anyone familiar with this type of turtle?  If so, it is probably a solid bet you are thinking how absolutely stupid this was.  I’ll explain why in just a second, but once those photo ops were over, the next task was to simply relocate this turtle .. as in off the property.  Figured I would just grab a snow shovel and show it the road.  Quickly it was apparent that the word “simple” did not apply at all.  Our friends at Wikipedia called it when they noted they are well known for their “belligerent disposition” when out of water.  I would like to officially re-word that to “damn assholes”.

This thing was not going to budge and clearly was not taking any flak for some idiot with a plastic shovel.  Lesson number one about this turtle – it doesn’t like to have its shell tapped with a plastic shovel.  the plan was to tap it a few times, have it “turtle” into its shell and I’d scoop it up and job done.  On the third tap this bastard latched onto the end of the shovel and nearly jerked it out of my hands.  Ladies and gentlemen, we officially have a SNAPPING TURTLE.  I might have went pale after that having just had my hands recently in clear striking distance of that mouth – no joke, that turtle could have easily snapped off one of my fingers not to mention done some serious damage to our dog.  Seconds later there was a metal shovel in my hand.  The battle was on.

I was no longer naive.  Snapping turtles are to be respected.  They can grow up to 20 inches and can generally weigh up to 35 pounds (largest one so far is 75 pounds).  Here is another interesting fact I learned from the web.  They are unable to retract completely into their shell (like the boxer turtles I’m used to).  Because they cannot use their shell for defense, they rely on their beak and powerful jaws coupled with a set of claws that would give a wolverine a run for its money.

This snapper had no intention of leaving the comfort of the mulch.  It was obvious I needed to a) get a longer shovel and b) have Linda deal with it.  Yeah, like the second part of that was ever going to happen – she was too busy chuckling it up taking pictures of the spectacle.  Of course, she did decide to seek the safety of the truck bed during all this.  The good news is the longer shovel worked better to get leverage under it… and no, the turtle was not getting any friendlier.  For some reason I was still trying not to hurt it so this ended up taking some time.

Once the bulk of the weight was on the shuffle I lifted it up and started heading out to the road.  35 pounds is at the low guess for this beast.  It took both arms to bring it off the ground and I do not consider myself that weak.  As you can see, it was still displaying nasty behavior.

Here I am straining to get this thing moved off the property.  Again, no letting up on the fight form its perspective.

About halfway down the driveway, my arms started giving out and … umm… well,… ummm.. I kind of dropped it into the rocks.   Suspecting this might happen I purposely risked serious back injury to keep it relatively close to the ground … just in case it did something stupid like launch for my juggler (by now I was prepared for ALL surprises).  The one lesson learned is that where the head goes on a snapping turtle, the body usually goes.  For the next 15 minutes I would let it build up some walking steam (we are talking a turtle here) and then direct the head to the center of the driveway so it would progress toward the road.  His goal was to get to the grass as fast as possible, so like a yacht race we tacked back and forth until eventually we were to the road.

And off into the ditch it went.  This shot gives a good view of the tail and hind legs (with claws).  Ironically, this is almost the same shot they have up on Wikipedia.

To prove to everyone no omnivores were hurt in the making of this blog entry, here it is in the safety of the ditch and clearly happy as a clam.

You would think that after an 1 hour of effort in the middle of the night it would have flashed me the peace sign or something as it headed off to sanctuary.  Not the case, this mean old prehistoric creature went about his business like we were intruders in his domain.  Granted, that is actually true, but it might be worth bringing up the word SOUP!  By the way, after reading up on snapping turtles, it is likely this was a female moving inland to lay eggs.  Based on the way it was digging in the mulch it matches the descriptions on the web.  They can actually lay 25 to 80 eggs at one time.  I can’t imagine what it would be like dealing with 80 pissed off turtles – the AR might have had to come out in that situation.  Found out this interesting fact from this wildlife site (link here).  Apparently the gender of the snapping turtle is determined by temperature at a specific point in the egg development.  One study had 58F produce all females, 73F all males and then back to all females at 77F.  Quite fascinating

That’s 5 boys and girls, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now

2 thoughts on “Our Prehistoric Visitor”

  1. Wow, what a nasty creature. And probably endangered, so you’re in trouble, mister. Actually, your land appears to be unique ecosphere of mammals and insects and reptiles and birds that apparently all lived in harmony before you built there. Perhaps the county should declare eminent domain and confiscate your land for a wildlife preserve. That’d be cool.

    Ron

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  2. Ummm NO! you city slickers need to just keep those kind of comments to yourself – I live in harmony with my four, two and 8 legged friends as long as they respect the forest woods (translated, don’t mess with me) and for the record is of LEAST CONCERN so there .. guessing laying 80 eggs at a time helps those odds big time.

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