On a recent visit at the North Branch Nature Center in Montpelier, we happened to get a lesson on the birds and the bees... from a couple of snapping turtles!
"So Larry, there is some snapping turtle activity going on, down at the pond here."
"There is. The snapping turtles are mating which is something really special, not too many people really get to see this."
"We caught them, in the act, with our cameras!"
"This happens this time of year, late May and early June. What happens next after the mating season?"
"After they mate, sometime in June or July they could be emerging onto land to build their nest, and they'll travel up to a kilometer away from their pond that they spend the rest of the year in, to lay their eggs."
"What are they looking for?"
"They're looking for an exposed sunny spot, preferably with disturbed soil so unfortunately roadsides end up being the perfect spot for them to lay their eggs."
"Which is why we see them in the roads lot, and also in gardens!"
"Yes, these turtles rarely leave the water except for laying their eggs and finding new habitat when their current pond becomes over crowded. So this is actually one of the few times that we get to see them on land."
"So what about people, when you run across a turtle in the road, what should you do?"
"Well, the best thing you can do is as little as possible. If she's in the middle of the road, try to move her safely to the side in the direction that she's going, and pretty much just leaving her be."
"That being said though, you don't want to risk your own life with traffic."
"Yes, definitely, on busy roads, the cars can be a real hazard not only to turtles but to you. So it's important that if you do try to get out and move a turtle, that you make sure that the coast is clear, and that there are no oncoming cars. And not only can cars be a hazard, but the turtles themselves can be a hazard too. Snapping turtles have a powerful jaw and a long neck and they can snap at considerable distances. So the best way to move them would really be if you have a snow shovel in your car, use a snow shovel. Something that allows you to move a turtle without actually getting too close to it."
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