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Monday, May 12, 2014

Snapping Turtle

Common Snapping Turtle  (chelydra serpentine)

This guy was spotted on my neighbor's driveway Saturday. I heard a lot of belly-flop type splashes on the shore of the lake last year, but always suspected it was a mink.  It may have been this guy.

The Common Snapping Turtle is the state reptile of New York.  They've been known to live for over a half a century, though the average lifespan is closer to 35 years.  This adult has a carapace (upper shell) roughly 1-1/2 feet long.  Snapping turtles are omnivores that typically eat frogs, fish, vegetation and decaying matter, though they have been know to eat birds caught off guard.

They prefer fresh and brackish water and like to bury themselves in the mud with only their nostrils and eyes protruding.  Their eyes protrude somewhat like submarine periscopes, enabling a quick surprise attack with their powerful beak-like jaws.  They are cold tolerant and can remain active under ice. While they can be nasty on land if provoked, in the water they are docile and will usually take a quick exit away from any oblivious swimmers.  Like a Grafton hermit, they savor their independence and prefer to live alone.  They are mostly nocturnal, active at night.

While they've rarely been know to bite humans, they can be lightning fast and it's not wise to provoke them -- watch this video I found on YouTube, especially carefully around the one minute mark.


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