|Newly hatched snapping turtle—mini prehistoric beast!|
|The bridge is so cramped, this female ended up damaging |
another nest while making her own.
I used a board to temporarily cover the nest when she was done, but I needed something else to protect it for the two months or so it would take for the eggs to mature: boards are okay for a couple of days to mask the fresh turtle scent, but after that nests need to be protected while at the same time leaving them exposed to sun and air and moisture. All I had at home was some chicken wire, which I tried to keep in place with some rocks and pegs, but this proved to be inadequate and one of two nests I covered was dug up within 24 hours.
Happily, I wasn't the only one monitoring the snapping turtles. My neighbours, Tracy and Jim and their kids, who live beside the bridge, were also paying attention. While another turtle laid her eggs, Jim was constructing sturdy open wooden boxes with heavy-duty wire mesh "lids." These were placed over the two intact nests. Sadly, a raccoon managed to raid both clutches that night by cleverly digging under the boxes. One of the two nests had only been partially dug up, so Tracy carefully reburied the few eggs that seemed undamaged, replaced the box and, this time, put a heavy rock on it. That did the trick and the box remained undisturbed for the rest of the summer.
|A baby snapping turtle impatiently trying to |
get out of the protective cage Jim made.
And here they are—our little success story of five baby snapping turtles!
|Five newly hatched snapping turtles!|
|Baby snapping turtles are shy.|
|Oops! This one fell off an inch-high cliff (the indent from the box).|
|Tracy and I were worried that the babies would get picked off by predators |
before they reached the creek, so we carried them to the water's edge.
|All five in the creek. Within minutes they'd all |
disappeared into the safety of deeper water.
What You Can Do (*This is a refresher from last year's post)
Help a Turtle Cross a Road
Pull over to a safe spot before getting out of your car. If it's any species other than a snapping turtle, use two hands to carry it in the direction it was travelling. Turtles often urinate when picked up. Don’t let this startle you or you might drop it! NEVER pick a turtle up by its tail—you could damage its spinal cord.
Snapping turtles have long necks that can easily stretch half the length of their carapace and they can also inflict a nasty bite or gouge you with their claws, so it's best not to pick them up. Instead, try using a stick or a shovel to coax them across the road. A snapping turtle will also sometimes latch onto a stick held near its mouth, making it easy to drag it across the road.
Protect a Clutch of Eggs
If you know the location of a new turtle nest, you can lightly sweep the surface to remove the scent or cover it with a board for a few days. You can also protect a nest from predators with a piece of wire mesh (at least 2’x2’) stapled onto a wooden frame or held down with rocks. Remove the mesh protection after 14 days. DO NOT disturb the eggs in a nest.
There are various turtle monitoring programs in North America that want to hear about turtle sightings:
Help an Injured Turtle
Never try to nurse an injured turtle yourself. Use Google to find a licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility near you. In southern Ontario, contact the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre (705-741-5000). For information on how to transport an injured turtle: http://kawarthaturtle.org/blog/about/drop-off/
Support the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre
This non-profit, registered charity operates a hospital for injured wild turtles. They release recovered turtles back into the wild and also harvest eggs from wounded females, which they incubate and release after hatching. You can volunteer to be a Turtle Taxi driver, help with ongoing care, donate money or simply help to spread the word about their work: http://kawarthaturtle.org/blog
Stop Snapping Turtle Harvesting in Ontario
Write your local MP. Write Ontario’s Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Natural Resources. There's an online email you can send via: http://action.davidsuzuki.org/snappers