|Snapping turtle on the road in Eastern Ontario|
Female snapping turtles like to use the gravel shoulders of roads as nesting sites, so you may encounter them - especially in the early summer - wandering along the side of a road you are traveling on. Often, however, you will come upon them in the middle of the road (as you can see in the above picture) and the temptation to move them out of harm's way becomes very great indeed. There doesn't seem to any real consensus online about how to pick up a snapping turtle; however, there is 100% agreement on how not to do so: by the tail. This is very painful for the turtle and can damage its spine or, in the case of young males, even its reproductive system. The best method I have come across for picking up a snapping turtle is to get behind it, find the cavity in the shell where the back legs protrude and lift from there. It's certainly not foolproof - you could get kicked by the turtle and that tail can cause some damage if it strikes you - but if you like to live dangerously, then by all means give it a try. Other methods involve coaxing the turtle onto a blanket and dragging it to safety or trying to get it to latch onto a thick stick and leading it off the road, but then that would really depend on how quiet that road is. If the turtle is in no danger - on the shoulder and not on the road itself - the best thing to do is to leave it be and let it find its way to wherever it is going.
Now, all of that is based on past experience and research I did today for this blog post. If you have better or just different suggestions, please pass them along. At this time of year, a snapping turtle on the road is a pretty common sight in rural parts of Ontario and knowing what to do when you come upon one is good information to have.
|Painted turtles sunning on a pipe|
|Red ear slider turtle at the Butterfly Conservatory|
So I learned a lot about turtles today. I think my next step is to submit something to the Zoo's Frogwatch Ontario project and see if I can get a similarly cool package about froggies.
No sooner had I posted this blog piece than I was steered to the website of a wonderful non-profit, charity hospital for turtles called the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre. Their website offered information and a video on how best to "help" an uninjured snapping turtle off the road. Please do check that site out; the video is really low-key and sweet.