Thursday, September 20, 2007

“That looks like a turtle, “ I said. Joanne looked down where I pointed. “Yes it does does, she said laughing, and we continued our conversation.
We were walking in the woods off Westheigts Drive, following the gravel path near the duck pond, our dogs running this way and that.
“Another one!” Joane disrupted the conversation, pointing down, “ this really IS a turtle, the other one must've been too then!” We carefully picked up the one and went back for the other.
You had to look well, they were so small. Could've been a combination of a little stone and a leaf. They were caked with gravel. We walked over with them to the pond, and carefully set them on the mud next to water. One started swimming right away. The other one stayed put. We watched for a while. Both our dogs sloshing in the water, the golden retriever, and the black cockepoo. They wanted to be right where we were looking. Like when your dog or cat sits right on the book or newspaper you want to read. We called them away so they wouldn't trample the turtles.
Satisfied that we had done our good 'brownie' deed, we continued walking, keeping an eye on the path.
Sure enough we saw another turtle and another and another... Babies? This time of the year, almost October? Weird.
We picked up one after another, bringing them to water until we saw a hole in the gravel path where they were crawling from. A small, deep hole. The nest. Wow!
“We need to put up a sign,” said Joanne, “people will step on them.” We went up in the woods a bit and found some hefty branch stumps. We arranged them around the nest.. I kept an eye out while Joanne walked over to a near home, and asked for help. The young woman she talked to caught the spirit right away. She constructed a sign, from cardboard and a stick, and came with a marker and a hammer. Joanne wrote on the marker, ” Watch your step, baby turtles on the path,” and we set it up near the barricade.
We thanked the woman and turned around to go home. Joanne had to go to work. No more time to waste. I regretted that I didn't have my camera with me.
Walking back we realized that we should have put up another sign on the beginning of the path. So, at home I made a second sign, and went back on my bike, armed with a camera. I put up the sign, but there were no turtles to be seen anymore. Not on the path, not coming from the hole. Figures! Had we scared them? Was it getting too warm , too late in the morning? Anyhow I took a picture of the nest and the sign. I went up to the water. Only one turtle was still there. Did the others swim away, dug themselves into the mud? I took a picture of the one. It didn't move. Had it died, or was it just stunted?
So many questions.
We guessed that they were snapping turtles. Info on the web tells that September is the month for them to get born. There is a long gestation time. There could be as many as 20 from one nest. When they come out they have to find water. They can live many days without.
Well, we saved, we hope, eight of them. Surely they had little chance not to be stepped on, on the gravel path. And the gravel caking them hampered their moving, and they may have dried up in the sun before they reached water.
Tomorrow morning we go have another look. We know there were more babies down there. We saw them. Will they come out, or have we scared them away and are they tunneling somewhere else now?
Snapping turtles can get as old as 150 or even 175 years. Most of them reach only 50. I've seen a large snapping turtle. They are huge. How long must it take those tiny babies to grow to that size? At least 50 years, I suppose.
Next day: We went back this morning. No turtles. Not on the path, not in the hole, We checked how deep the hole is. Not deep at all, just a small hollow. Not a nest. Did they just hide there? Where did they come from? We are still puzzled.

wild thing


Anonymous said...

Sounds like you did the right thing WT! Here's what Wildlady (your cousin?) says on her website about baby snapping turtles...

Breeding: Mating usually takes place in the water. In early summer 25 to 50 eggs are laid and covered in a hole dug on land. Hatching usually takes 2 to 3 months, but eggs laid late in the season may not hatch until the weather warms the following spring. As soon as they have hatched, baby snappers make their way down to the water where they will spend their first few years. they grown quickly and often reach 6 inches in shell length within their first year. Males are fully grown and ready to breed at 3 to 5 years; females take longer to mature.

The Great Turtle in the Sky thanks you, no doubt, Wild Thing!

Anonymous said...

I've seen a huge snapping turtle one year ago, not far from the place where the baby turtles came out. She was laying eggs. I saw them come out. They were like ping pong balls. 25 of those wouldn't have fitted in that hole. But maybe it was a younger, smaller turtle and they lay smaller eggs.

Wild Thing. (Wild Lady eh? Cool. We surely must be related.)