Herpetofauna - One Life's List

Snapping Turtle
Chelydra serpentina serpentina

New Florence, Montgomery Co., Missouri.  June 1974.

Adult Snapper, southern Illinois.

I've come across many Snappers over the years but I will always remember the first one, on a summer visit to a friend's family farm.  We were down at a shallow, gravel-bottomed creek, trying in vain to grab several Bullfrogs, when a dark brown disk with legs came out of the shadows underneath  the road bridge.  It slowly moved upstream, its fat head protruded and swinging from side to side.  I reached down into the icy water to grab the tail, remembering the handling techniques for Snappers in Conant's Field Guide.  It was a thrill to pull it out of the water, the large ridges on the top of the tail helped me to get a firm grip.  It was a fair-sized adult, maybe twenty pounds.  Out of the water, the Snapper pulled his head back and opened his mouth wide, lunging and snapping at any stick or shoe that got too close.  Here was a beast much like crocodilians, remaining unchanged for many thousands of years, an animal perfectly suited for living on the bottoms of rivers and streams.

Female Snapping Turtles will oftentimes travel far overland to find a place to lay eggs.  Unfortunately, this means they often cross roads, and many never make it across.  I've managed to rescue several Snappers off the roads over the years, but have seen  dozens already killed, along with their unborn young.

Save a turtle, if you get the chance!

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