Today’s Random Thing I Found in the Yard

A snapping turtle. Which struck me as random but apparently isn’t entirely, as snapping turtles are native to Ohio (as well as much of the eastern two thirds of the continental US), and there is a big pond nearby, where this guy probably lives most of the time. He (or she, honestly, like I could tell) is probably out looking for a mate, as this mating season. In which case he has a bit of travel yet, since I’m pretty sure there’s not any more of his kind in the yard. I wish him luck all the same.

45 Comments on “Today’s Random Thing I Found in the Yard”

  1. Our yard flooded once and a muskrat set up house in a half-built shed in the corner of the yard. We saw it gliding through the water out on its muskrat business. It must have come as quite a shock when it turned out this land wasn’t normally a pond. That was the only time I ever saw a muskrat in my state. So your yard could be full of unseen critters. Heck, all the previous turtle tenants of your house could still be hiding in there or stowing away in your grocery bags.

  2. There are snappers in a wetland near where I live (London, Ontario). I see them sunning themselves on rocks and downed tree branches in the summer. I’ve seen painted turtles as well, but they aren’t nearly as common.

    I hope your guy doesn’t get run over. Crossing roads is problematic for turtles.

  3. A while back, I was on a hike through a patch of high weeds. In the short distance, I started seeing the growth split to the side and crush down, the unseen cause of the disturbance moving slowly towards me. As a series of silly horror and sci-fi movie plots, and victims, ran through my mind, the snapping turtle causing the slo-mo Evil Dead-ish progression in my direction showed its rounded head. Ever since then, I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for the creatures…even if he didn’t repeat “join us” a few dozen times. Maybe you’ll be more lucky on that front.

  4. Wow, that looks like a big one! Sadly, down here in VA, knocking snappers off is a national pastime. Which sucks hind tit because really, they’re good for the environment, plus the big ones are like 100 years old, because they never stop growing. We pulled one off the road that was almost two feet across (the wildlife people guessed she was OVER 100 years old) and had to send her to a rescue place because apparently, young horses have no more respect for old snappers than young humans, and a group of yearlings had played kick ball with this old dame. She pulled through fine though, and with the addition of a little epoxy, is out swimming in ponds again.

  5. Is it the sort of thing which a cat could productively attack? Although I imagine the shell is pretty good protection.

  6. aphrael @8.16:

    I’d put my money on the snapper. They’re called ‘snapping’ turtles for a reason– their necks are long and their heads can move surprisingly fast. And their beaks are sharp. . . .

    Lets hope the ScalziCats have the sense to let well enough alone.

  7. When I was a kid we were adopted by a box turtle.He lived in a unused flower bed located in the corner of our backyard. He would make the trek to the porch. My grandma would give him something to eat.When he was done he went back to his home. He did this every day.

  8. Almost certainly a female; these turtles pretty much stay in the water except to to lay eggs, which is almost certainly what this one is trying to do. (It’s the right time of year for it, too.)

    This incidentally means that practically every turtle killed on the road is a female of reproductive age, on her way to or from egg-laying. A few decades of that, and you’ve got a local turtle population that’s effectively extinct, only they don’t know it yet.

  9. Last year I arrived at a dog walking assignment to find a couple of city workers on front of the house. I walked over to see what they were doing. Turns out they were wrangling a big ol’ snapper, trying to get her(?) back into the little stream nearby. Apparently it had been in the street, & the neighbors called the city to move it.

    I watched till the pushed & prodded it back to the edge of the bank. The turtle then slid down into the water and went off on her turtle-y business.

    She was about the size of a manhole cover. Very Age-of-Reptiles stuff there.

  10. I agree with Mcwetboy, baby snapping turtles are the cutest little saurian things imaginable.

    My aunt kept one as a pet for a long time (and may still have it). She found it as a little guy about the size of a silver dollar. She kept it in a washtub part-full of water, and fed it cat food. Last time I saw it, it was the size of a dinner plate.

    And some years ago, I was out fishing with my wife and one of her friends. I was out of sight around a bend of the river when I heard this loud SPASH!, and the friend started screaming. I dashed back, and she kept screaming, “My bobber! It took my bobber!” Seems a snapping turtle had decided to have a go at the bobber on her fishing line, and snapped it right off.

  11. It does look big in the picture. How big would you say it is? Were you worried about being snapped?

  12. Is a baby turtle infestation a bad thing? Imagine all the cute baby turtles, just exploring the world for the first time. :)

  13. Blue Valentine:

    I was not worried about being snapped because I got nowhere near it. Its shell is at least 12 inches across and I suspect more.

  14. Snapping turtles are not endangered (no need to feel sorry for them), they WILL snap off your finger, and they are delicious and legal to hunt with a fishing license (at least in MI). I’ve never been brave enough to try it, though.

  15. Tim Eisele: Lucky it was only a bobber your friend lost – Mom recalls a snapper biting through an inch-plus of hardwood walking stick she was using, in less time than it took to pull back a much-truncated implement (hickory, IIRC) now more suited for use as a billy-club.

    John has quite a beautiful specimen there, however – much less cranky too, or so I surmise.

  16. This is a lovely turtle! My dad would always pull over when he saw a snapping turtle crossing the street. I have seen him “help” them on their way by getting behind them, grasping their shell behind the head and at the tail and depositing them in the bushes closest to the road in whatever direction they were headed. He has never been bitten (yet). I suspect this is due to general snapping turtle shock at being suddenly airborne rather than his superior turtle lifting skills.

  17. Way back when, we’d go fishing for catfish in the creek at my grandparents’ farm in Indiana. Once in a while a snapper would go for the worm. That was always exciting. You’d always know it was a snapper because they were so darn heavy. It was like hooking an anchor. It wasn’t very often that we could get one up and onto the bank before the line broke. We always put them back. I’d hate to think about getting bit by one.

  18. When I was a kid growing up in Ohio, we had a pond that was popular with snapping turtles. One day my dad brought a duck home and she decided the pond was her new home. It was, until several days later, when I found the duck floating around the pond without its head or feet.

  19. A friend of mine found a red-eared turtle in her yard a few years ago- a small one, about three inches long. Our first thought was that it must be a tortoise, as there is no body of water near her house. We eventually decided that some bird had just lost his dinner. He’s now living happily in an aquarium.

  20. Obviously she’s a Gameron and she’s looking for Lt. Stross who she reasonably surmised from reading The Ghost Brigades to be hanging out in Scalzi’s backyard.

  21. Where we lived in VA, there were a few of these in the nearby pond. They loved eating the bread crumbs the kids would drop from the bridge. I found one stuck in the roadway and successfully avoided its jaws and urine while getting it back to its home.

  22. If she does lay eggs you’ll have to be careful with the mower in a few (insert the gestation period of snapping turtles).

  23. @ Origuy

    You might enjoy Douglas Hofstadter’s magnum opus Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid which is as brilliant and engrossing as it is meandering. Hofstadter references that and other Carrol stories frequently.

  24. It’s a great picture, by the way. I love the way the turtle seems to be emerging from the primordial muck.

  25. We have a pool. This has been the year for fishing wildlife out of it.

    First, there were the pair of big frogs (think the size of softballs).

    Second was the little red-eared turtle. We think he (We named him SHellboy) went for a swim then couldn’t find his way out. After a few days of keeping him in a bucket and feeding him worms & greens, we took him to a pond in a park across the highway from us and let him loose.

    Our cat was rather nonplussed at the attention that SHellboy was getting. The cat couldn’t understand what could possibly be so interesting about a bucket of water that we would move it back and forth between the outdoors and the garage (we didn’t want the little guy to freeze on the couple nights we had frost & freeze warnings).

    The latest has been a pair of young doves. Mom & Dad will go swimming then fly out, but the little ones stay in to long and let their feathers get to sodden to fly. We use the net to scoop them out and put them on the ground, where they shake themselves and run around until they are dry enough to get enough lift to fly over the fence and rejoin the parents at the bird feeder. Again, our cat finds this to be completely befuddling. He thinks he should be allowed to take care of the problem for us, which doesn’t include fishing them out of the pool.

  26. If she does lay eggs in your bushes, the babies will make a bee-line for the nearest ‘large’ body of water. Turtles have polarized vision and can see the light reflected off of a body of water, which is how they find a new place to live/know where to look for other turtles.

  27. One summer in college I worked for a landscaping company renovating an abandoned golf course in Georgia. When we got the clubhouse pool drained there were about a dozen of those guys living in it. I got the task of relocating them to a nearby pond, since I objected to killing them. The big ones are actually easier to handle without losing chunks of finger. There’s not much to grab on a little snapper that is out of reach of their jaws.

    You should build a swimming pool for that one.

  28. If that were my yard, I would probably be out anxiously asking the critter if it was hungry, if it needed a sunshade, if there was anything I could do to make its journey swifter, safer and more comfortable. And – snappers being such noted curmudgeons – I might have already lost a fingertip or so from being unable to resist trying to pet the creature.

    Turtles and tortoises – along with duck-billed platypuses, octopuses, giant insects, and such – are such wondrous unlikely bits of biological engineering that I get all giggly and happy just thinking about them.

  29. A large healthy snapper also means you have a fairly healthy local eco system. Reptiles are more sensitive to most contaminants than we are. Plus there is ghe whole apex preditor concetration thing. Baby snappers are cute, but voratious! Watch your fingers if you try to pick them up!