Sunday, June 08, 2008

Snapping Turtle vs Car Season and The Gracklery (continued)

My cell phone rang and it was Gaylord Hooker, a local man who knows my interest in nature, calling to tell me that his son had rescued a very large snapping turtle off the highway and was going to take him to the pond he'd been heading for. Did I want to see the turtle before he went? You bet.

When I arrived Mr. Snapping Turtle, aka. Common Snapping Turtle, Chelydra serpentina, was slowly making his way across the yard in a slow languid turtle kind of way. And Gaylord wasn't exaggerating one bit. This is one big turtle; well into the 14 inch range. Turtle kept his steady and stately pace and was progressing but not wanting him to have to cross yet another road a box was found, turtle had already relieved himself in the car several times and further events on the carpet were hoped to be avoided. But when Mr. T was lifted to go in--his Dr. Hyde side came to the fore.

Now yes the big jaws are a little on the scary side, but it's the combination with the quick lunge that really gets you. When a snapping turtle feels threatened, his hind quarters go up and his body tenses like a compressed spring. The pressure is released and WHAAAAA! He's very easily in your face if you happen to be bending down and looking too close when he releases.
According to the Wisconsin DNR this is "the largest and heaviest turtle species in the state. Its carapace can vary from light brown to black in color an d it has a saw-toothed back edge.}

"The tail supports a row of jagged dorsal scales and is nearly as long as the carapace." It's really
quite the appendage I must say.

"The head has large jaws and a pointed snout with a prominent beak. Its long neck, powerful jaws, and aggressive behavior have rightly earned the snapping turtle its name. "
They can say that again.
Look at his plastron, it's very reduced compared to what many other turtles have. He's just the little connectors on the sides, his legs are completely exposed under there and he has only a center breast plate. I suppose he doesn't need as much armor as his ability in the defense department allows him to do with less as he doesn't have to rely completely on his shell for protection.
As to how he makes his living, the DNR continues "Snapping Turtles live in most aquatic habitats but prefer ponds, lakes, and the backwaters of rivers. Both a predator and a scavenger, the snapper feeds on aquatic animals and plants. they consume almost any animal they can catch, although studies show that their reputation as a duckling predator has been greatly exaggerated. They also feed on slow-swimming, small fish, or fresh dead fish. Snapping turtles are important top-line predators in aquatic food chains."
So Snapper went into the box, we and the box went into the car and off we went to the neighboring farmer's pond.

Lifted carefully from the box on the verge of the pond, he just glared at us for a number of minutes. Then a deer bolted out of cover just behind , I turned, saw the deer, turned back to the turtle and he'd already disappeared into the water. Where no doubt he'll be looking to propagate more snapping turtles.
Though their name says they are common they are far less so than previously . They are often the victims of all the roads and cars now in rural areas. As a result Wisconsin has done a good deal of work educating the public that when they see one of these guys crossing the road, to pull over, pick them up (CAREFULLY) and get them to the other side of the road. No, not the side they came from, as some people did at first, but the other side as they are going somewhere in particular not just mindlessly meandering.

To recap, somehow at various times of day or other provocation, the Grackle flock adults
convince their progeny to stay in the hedge as a group. Interestingly they have different styles of begging and as one might suspect after awhile they start to adventure out on their own. I took these photos though a screen from inside the house so sharpness isn't as crisp as one might like.

While all the other young Grackles are vocalizing or climbing around in the hedge, Gapper here just opens his mouth and leaves it that way with out sound.

This fledgling has escaped the hedge and looks to be looking for something to get into.

He pecks at something in the grass. They're good peckers but they often at this age choose things that are too big and not particularly edible but they're making an effort so that counts for something.

See? He's shifted a little but still has that maw exposed.

A binoc look, which shows the beginnings of a typical species expression.
Then a look in the eyes typical of many a baby bird.
Donegal Browne

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