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. crotchetyoldfan – The Crotchety Old Fan is Steve Davidson, also know as Rimworlder on many SF forums. Steve maintains the Rim Worlds Concordance project which is devoted to the works of A. Bertram Chandler and his most enduring character - Commodore John Grimes of the Rim Worlds Naval Reserve. Grimes is science fiction’s original ‘Horatio Hornblower of Space’. More information about Chandler, Grimes and the Rim Worlds can be found at www.rimworlds.com. Steve also maintains a visual index of volume 1, number 1 pulp science fiction magazines on the same website and is a devoted collector of the same. ‘I’m an ‘old’ SF fan, which you can take whichever way you like, as I love the old masters (Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, E.F. Russell, Piper, Cordwainer Smith) and I’m well beyond the age you’re not supposed to trust anymore’. This blog is devoted to an investigation of the growing divide between ‘old’ - or ‘classic’ science fiction and the moderan literary genre that is currently sold under the same name. Steve has also begun writing reviews for www.SFReader.com, expects to be doing the same for www.SFSignal.com, and is contributing various non-fiction pieces to various other websites, all of them concerned with science fiction of one stripe or another. Early in 2008 he became completely disappointed with the SciFi Channel and created The Classic Science Fiction Channel website that gathers links to public domain radio, television, film and literary properties. Steve had a successful non-fiction writing career - writing articles and books dealing primarily with the paintball industry (Four books and several hundred articles including editorializing, product reviews, sports reporting, educational and more) - which he has since given up in favor of blogging and fiction. (Leaving the paintball industry after 25 years.) One final book on this subjected is scheduled to be released in early 2009 (A Parent's Guide To Paintball). Current work on fiction includes several completed novellettes/novellas curently in submission hell and various chapters of three novels. Freely distributed current work - including several chapters of a science fiction/paintball novel and a pulp/comic book/fairy tale mashup can be found on his website.
    crotchetyoldfan

    http://www.turtleforum.com/forum/upload/index.php?showtopic=95430 for some info on ‘sexing’ snapping turtles, should you be so brave and so inclined

  6. This one has now crossed the yard and is hanging out in the bushes near the house. I expect the cats will be pissed.

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

  8. I imagine the cats, after consideration, will decide this is a thing with which not to bother.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. changterhune – Before you hear lies from Chang Terhune himself, we thought we’d tell you the truth: without us, his old action figures, he’d be nowhere. He loved science fiction from way back and began reading it at an early age, but it was through us that he acted it all out. That’s what led to the writing. He watched a lot of science fiction shows like Star Trek, U.F.O, and movies, too. But we were always there to do his bidding. And it’s like they say: you always forget about the little people on your way up. Oh, the 70’s and early 80’s with him were good times! He’d use these blocks and make all the crazy buildings for us to be in his stories. I gotta say the kid’s imagination was pretty damn fertile. Oh, he had friends, but they just weren’t into it like him. He was like the Lance Armstrong of action figures. And of science fiction. At first, when he began writing in the eighth grade, we didn’t mind. He still made time for us. And we knew that when he was holding us in his sweaty little hands and he got that far off look in his eye, he’d come back to burying us in the back yard or - god forbid! – blowing us up with firecrackers. But it was worth it for a part in one of those stories. We loved him for it. He kept us around even when we were minus a leg or two - or even a head. In that mind of his, he found a use for all of us. Then he discovered girls. October, 1986. It was like the end of the world. One day we’re standing in the middle of this building block creation he’d pretended was some marble city on a planet near Alpha Centauri and the next we were stuck in a box in the closet. Not even a “See ya later!” Nope, it was into the closet, then we heard some high-pitched girly-giggles then silence. We didn’t see him for years. We got word about him once in a while. Heard he took up writing, but it was crap like “The Breakfast Club” only with better music. We couldn’t believe it. Not Charlie. What happened to those aliens with heads he’d sculpted out of wax? Spaceships? Those complex plots? All gone. For what? You guessed it: Girls. Emotions. “Serious fiction.” I tell you, it was like hearing Elvis had left the building. During our two decade exile in the closet, we heard other things about him. He went to college. He wrote a lot, but not much he really liked. We knew it even then. It was like he didn’t dare write science fiction. Some of us had lost hope and just lay there. Others kept vigil, hoping for a day we didn’t dare speak about. Then we heard he’d stopped writing in 1996. Did he come to reclaim us? No. He took up music for ten years or so. He took up yoga. Once in a while, he’d visit us in the closet. But it was half-hearted. His mind was elsewhere. Then one day, he really did come back for us. One second we’re in the dark and the next thing we know we’re in a car headed for Massachusetts. Suddenly we got a whole shelf to ourselves out in broad daylight! Then he bought a bunch of others form some planet called Ebay. He’d just sit and stare at us with that old look. But why were we suddenly back in the picture? He had a wife now, who didn’t mind that he played with us. So what had happened? Turns out he’d never forgotten about those stories. He’d been thinking about all of us and the stories he’d made up and then remembered he’d been a writer once. From the shelf we could see him typing away. Before long he’s got a whole novel together! Then he’s working on another one. Word is there are two more in the planning stages! Some short stories, too! It’s good to see him using his imagination again. Its good to know he never abandoned us. He returned to his true love of science fiction. We hear the stories are pretty good. Someday we’ll get one of the cats to score us a copy of the manuscript. Man, it’s good to be out of the damn closet! --- I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me
    changterhune

    Uhhhhhh… I despise these malingerers from dinosaur times. Hurry up and get out of sight where you belong, devil beast!!!

  12. Jonathan Crowe – Shawville, Quebec – I blog about maps at <a href="http://www.maproomblog.com">The Map Room</a>, review books for <i><a href="http://aescifi.ca">AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review</a></i>, and edit a fanzine called <i><a href="http://www.mcwetboy.net/ecdysis/">Ecdysis</a></i>.
    mcwetboy

    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.

  13. McWetboy:

    Oh, great, that means in a few weeks I’ll have a baby turtle infestation in my hedge!

    (sighs heavily)

  14. 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.

  15. Jonathan Crowe – Shawville, Quebec – I blog about maps at <a href="http://www.maproomblog.com">The Map Room</a>, review books for <i><a href="http://aescifi.ca">AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review</a></i>, and edit a fanzine called <i><a href="http://www.mcwetboy.net/ecdysis/">Ecdysis</a></i>.
    mcwetboy

    John: I know, the CUTE will be just too much for you. Time to move.

  16. 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.

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

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. nerdycellist – About me: amateur musician (voice and cello), dog lover, fat girl, avid traveler, semi-pro ranter, cheese enthusiast, Bibliophibian and sci-fi/fantasy nerd. I'm an introvert anywhere but on my own turf.
    nerdycellist

    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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

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

  28. @ 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.

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

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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!

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