Herpetofauna: One Life's List

Pseudemys concinna suwanniensis
Suwannee Cooter

Wacissa River, Wakulla Co., Florida
August 1st, 2008

While canoeing on the Wacissa with Scott, Sarah and John, we spotted a large River Cooter sunning itself on a raft of vegetation.  Scott angled the canoe around so that I could take some pictures, and we were able to get pretty close.  I kept waiting for the cooter to take off into the water, but she didn't, and finally we got so close I wondered whether I couldn't make a grab for it.  I slipped out of the canoe and found myself waist-deep in Coontail (Ceratophyllum). It was hard going getting through that stuff, and then I started getting bitten by some kind of little critters who objected to having large mammalian legs intruding into their living space.  This wasn't working, so I hauled myself back into the canoe, and Scott skillfully put us into a clearer area directly behind the turtle. I jumped in again, and here the coontail only came up to my thighs, so I could move a little better, although the little bitey things were once again chewing on me.  I moved slowly forward towards the turtle, raising my legs high to keep on top of the coontail.

I got about five feet from the cooter and she decided to move, but when she crawled into the water, she too was held up by the coontail.  Aha! I still had a chance!  I thrust forward, reached out and grabbed her up. Yes!  I turned back towards the canoe with her so Scott and Sarah and John could have a look at her.  She was a beautiful turtle, at her prime, her carapace covered in moss.  I was still getting bitten below deck, but John and I held her long enough to take a few pictures before letting her go on her way.







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