Monday, July 2, 2007

Continuing education is a snapping good time


By Karrie McAllister

Here we go again, folks.
Just when you thought you were clear of my bizarre animal stories for the year, another giant one crawled right into my backyard. And instead of looking at this oversized creature as a nuisance or pest, I decided to treat it like the wonder of nature that it was and use it as a perfect educational tool for myself, my children, everyone in the neighborhood, and even some friends I called who just had to see for themselves.
You will note that I said I live in a neighborhood, and although we back up to some woods, we have sidewalks and city water which gives me a false sense of security when it comes to the wilderness.
I am all for seeing wild animals when I am in the wilderness, and I fully expect them and appreciate that I am on their turf. But when my neighbor rang my doorbell and said “there’s a little friend in your backyard, I thought your kids might want to see,” I realized my territory had clearly been invaded.
Naturally my husband wasn’t home, meaning I would have to deal with this “little friend” all by myself.
This “little friend” turned out to be a turtle that was so big, it looked like a dinosaur. We estimated it to be over 30 pounds. And was it a friendly turtle? The internet is a wonderful tool, and provided us with the first information for the day. Snapping turtles have tell-tale tails that are jagged on the top, like serrations. And they have a massive head that looks like it’s ready to bite off your entire hand. So no, it wasn’t a friendly turtle.
So I ask you—if a 30 pound snapping turtle showed up in your backyard, what would you do?
I called a naturalist at The Wilderness Center who informed me that there must be a pond somewhere nearby, and she had simply come out to lay her eggs in a sandy place, and after she was finished, she would simply walk back home because snapping turtles can’t live without water. And as long as we stayed away, it wouldn’t hurt us.
It all sounded easy enough, but I started to panic when “Snappy” as she was so cleverly named by my son, crawled right under our porch to apparently lay her eggs.
So I ask again—if a 30 pound snapping turtle is laying eggs under your back porch, what would you do?
We did nothing but let her be, and for the rest of the day we checked on her periodically, took a zillion pictures of the same turtle in the same spot, and made the kids play inside.
As if that all wasn’t amazing enough, the story continues at 11pm, twelve hours after this ordeal began.
Our dogs were barking in the garage, and figuring they just needed to go outside, my husband went to do just that, but instead found our friend Snappy trying to get into our garage!
For the final question—if a 30 pound snapping turtle is trying to pick a fight with your dog, what would you do?
To make a long, unbelievable story short, it took my husband, his brother, a snow shovel, a push broom, and a wheelbarrow to remove this creature from our yard. At 11:30, my husband was spotted by neighbors pushing a wheelbarrow down the street to the nearest pond.
Needless to say, we did the right thing and informed all of our neighbors that we had deposited a snapping turtle that was bigger than a breadbox in the retention pond on our street.
And if any of them run into Snappy, they can just ask us what to do. After such a turtle-filled day, we’re practically local experts.

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