Sunday Science: Meet the Turtles - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Sunday Science: Meet the Turtles

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Reporter: "So obviously another species people see around here in the lakes a lot are turtles. We have two species here, two types -- can you tell us a little bit about them?"

Leah Valerio, The Wild Center: "These are actually are two most common turtles. In my hand here is a painted turtle, and they get that name, as you can see, they have this beautiful reddish orange side on their shell and their legs. You're holding of course the much-malaigned snapping turtle."

Reporter: "This one's a little scared probably right now -- in his shell. But they do get quite a bit bigger."

Valerio: "They do, absolutely. Both of these species can be very long-lived but snapping turtles can live 50 years or more."

Reporter: "Oh wow."

Valerio: "So they're a pretty long-lived species."

Reporter: "And so how old are the ones we're holding here, about?"

Valerio: "The one you have in your hand is probably about four years old, and I'm not certain about this little painted turtle."

Reporter: "And what's an interesting fact about a painted turtle?"

Valerio: "Well I actually kind-of love the love story of the painted turtle. One of the ways you can tell if you're seeing a male or female is the males often have longer front claws, and when they're trying to court a female they will actually take their nails and tickle the chin of the females, which I think is very sweet."

Reporter: "Awww. And then snappers -- is there a redeeming quality for them?"

Valerio: "They're part of the ecosystem, they tend to stay in the shallow water and they eat a lot of slow-moving fish and salamanders and things like that. And just the fact that they can live that long. It's pretty amazing when you think about it. A species that can live that long and grow that large -- it's pretty amazing."

Reporter: "I like that they have a bit of an attitude, too."

Valerio: "They do, absolutely."

Reporter: "And for kids who come in, when they see these guys, do they recognize it as a species they've seen in the wild?"

Valerio: "I think the painted turtle gets recognized more often and sometimes you will see these guys as pets -- people will often have these as pets. But people will often ask of any turtle species, which one's the snapper, because they want to know. And one way you can tell if you're seeing a snapper is if you look at the back ends of these turtles, you can see the scales on the edge are very smooth. And it might be hard to tell, but these are a little pointed-looking. So snapping turtles have those pointed scales on the edge."

Reporter: "So that's good to know, if people are out and they see one of these on the road, and they go oh, what kind of turtle is that --"

Valerio: "And generally with most wildlife, people always say, 'Is it going to snap me?' Well, anything with a mouth can bite you, so if you do see a turtle on the road, if you can sort-of just be very careful and sort-of just try to herd them to the side of the road that's probably the best way to do it rather than trying to pick it up and risk getting injured yourself."

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