The other morning Eric rose at about 5:30 to take the poodles out to “do business.” The day before, he had been working on digging out a stump in the front yard above the garden wall, over-looking the pond. Planning to work on it more the next day, he left the dirt piled around the stump, and joined me for Happy Hour and dinner. It had rained in the night, turning the dirt to mud, and nestled there in a little dugout area, was a snapping turtle. Eric suspected she might have come to the muddy spot to dig in, and lay her eggs.
Being the highly professional and seasoned “Googler” that I am, I quickly grabbed my computer and did what I do best: I typed in “snapping turtles laying eggs.” Instantaneously (don’t you love modern technology – it has simply ruined us all for waiting for anything, anymore, ever), I found a YouTube video, which depicted exactly what we were seeing. A snapping turtle just hanging out, with her hind end tucked into the mud. She had apparently come up front the pond and around the garden wall, to the upper level of our yard, in front of the house, during the rainy night. Quite a trek. As the photo at the top of the post shows, she would have had to travel the expanse of the lawn, and up the far left side of the two-tiered garden walls, to get to where the stump was. How did she know the potential mud-nest was there? She couldn’t have searched the entire couple of acres around the pond in the night for the perfect spot, could she? Had she arisen from the water knowing it was time, caught the musky scent of fresh-turned earth, and instinctively headed right for it? (Ooooo…I feel a Google coming on.)
We had no idea how long she had been there, and although I wanted to try to actually film her laying her eggs (like the cooperative snapper in the YouTube video did – obviously not her first time on film), but she seemed to get a bit nervous whenever I got close enough to do that, and I didn’t want to interrupt nature’s rhythm, so I left her to her business. (After all, isn’t it kind of private??) She remained there for perhaps an hour, with Eric or me peeping out the slider now and again, to see if anything else had occurred. At one point it looked as though she might be burying something with her back legs, and soon she began to extricate herself from the mud and head out. Eric said he hoped she would remember to go around the wall, and not over it, but sure enough, smart as turtles are purported to be, our girl beelined it straight for the wall. Just before she went over, Eric managed to grab her. Was she pissed! She snapped and hissed. I wanted to get more shots of the heroic “snapper air-lift” procedure, but Mikey escaped the house and ran right towards her, before Eric could get her off the ground (she was rather insistently nasty in her complete dislike of Eric), so I had my hands full with keeping Mikey from getting his nosey little poodle-schnoz bitten off.
Headed for the wall.
Turtle Rescue arrives at the scene just in the nick of time!
Once Eric set her on the proper path to the pond, she booked. If I got too close to her she would stop, so I had to use my telephoto lens from quite a distance. I had wanted a shot of her entering the pond and swimming away, but who knew a turtle could move that fast? I barely made it down to get that last blurry shot of her about to dive in.
We read online that snapping turtle eggs incubate for 8 – 10 weeks. We won’t be here for the hatching. Bummer! But now, so as to leave the area undisturbed, Eric won’t be able to finish his stump-clearing job until we get back in October. Hopefully the ground won’t be frozen over by then. (I kid. Sort of.)
By the way, have you noticed all of my creatures at the Clearing have, so far, been assigned the female gender? (Well, except for my husband and the poodles, of course!) In all honesty, how would I know if a snake or a caterpillar or a butterfly or a moose, were male or female? My she-moose had no antlers, but a he-moose would have already dropped his, anyway – and, not to be indelicate, but there wasn’t much time to check for gender designation any other way as she loped off into the woods – tout suite. I just like thinking of creatures as female, I guess, because, unlike the French and other cultures, we seem to assign the male gender to everything, unless we know otherwise. I know there are male animals here in the Vermont woods, I do. Okay, well, there has to at least be one male snapper. The she-snapper laying eggs proves it.