Top Ten Interesting Facts About Snapping Turtles

Enormous snapping turtle spotted on a walk in the South Mountain Reservation a few weeks ago.

Box Turtle found in my garden.

Despite the Turtle Back Zoo being a local attraction, I’ve only seen turtles in the area a few times. There are the small turtles that sun themselves on logs in Diamond Mill Pond in the South Mountain Reservation, the box turtle that showed up in my garden, and the box turtle who peed a gallon on me when I picked it up by The Waterfront. Compared to the “Animal Kingdom in the Suburbs,” in which chipmunks, groundhogs, deer, raccoons, moles, opossums, turkeys and foxes are common, turtle sightings are scant.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I spotted a prehistoric-looking creature a few feet from the road!

It was an enormous snapping turtle whose shell was about 2 1/2 feet long and 1 1/2 feet wide. Add in its head and long tail and it was about 3 1/2 feet long. People were gathering and the turtle didn’t look happy. Hon, you know what I had to do once I got home? Look up snapping turtle facts, of course!

Top Ten Interesting Facts About Snapping Turtles:
  1. Turtles have a hard plate that covers the stomach, called a plastron. But, a snapping turtle’s plastron is small, so they can’t pull their head and legs into their shell for protection. They make up for this lack of body armor with an aggressive temperament.
  2. In the wild, snapping turtles are estimated to live up to 30 years, and in captivity, they can live up to 47 years. Once they reach a certain size there are few natural predators of snapping turtles.
  3. A snapping turtle’s tail has sharp ridges running along its length, and is nearly as long as the shell. Their necks, legs, and tails have a yellowish color and the head is dark. A snapping turtle’s mouth is shaped like a strong, bony beak with no teeth. Their skin is rough with characteristic bumps, called tubercles, on their necks and legs. The feet are webbed and have strong claws.
  4. Turtles lack teeth. Most are mute, but they have keen senses of smell and color vision.
  5. Living only in fresh or brackish water, snapping turtles prefer water with muddy bottoms and lots of vegetation so that they can hide more easily. They spend almost all their time in water, but do go on land to lay their eggs in sandy soil.
  6. They like to bury themselves in mud with only their nostrils and eyes exposed. This burying is used to surprise prey.
  7. Snapping turtles have a small growth on the end of their tongues that looks like a wriggling worm. To capture fish, the turtle opens its mouth to make the “worm” visible. When a fish comes to the worm, the snapping turtle grabs it with its strong jaws.
  8. Snapping turtles will eat nearly anything that they can get their jaws around. They feed on dead animals, insects, fish, birds, small mammals, amphibians, and a surprisingly large amount of aquatic plants. They kill other turtles by biting off their heads.
  9. Snapping turtles are solitary. Even though many turtles may be found in a small area, their social interactions are limited to aggression between individuals, usually males.
  10. Snapping turtles communicate to mates with leg movements while the turtles face each other. Snapping turtles also use their sense of smell, vision, and touch to detect prey. They may sense vibrations in the water.
Source: BioKids

Predator Poem


I haven’t posted about Midnight, our outdoor cat, in awhile (He refuses to come inside even when invited in!), but that doesn’t mean he isn’t up to his usual shenanigans: sitting on top of the grill and staring into the kitchen window to get our attention when he’s hungry, doing circle eights around Hubby’s ankles when Hubby’s grilling, howling at neighborhood bullies–ahem, I mean other cats–that want to eat his food, hiding under cars, making toys out of fledgling birds (future post–how to splint the broken leg of a bird!)…

…and hunting.

Midnight is so thankful that we greet him each day with food, water, and glad-to-see-you-chatter that he brought us a present. A dead squirrel! Wasn’t that thoughtful?

Squirrel Eulogy

This is an old tale

Of a new kitty

Gifting the people

Who feed him

And pet him

And love him

Treasure from the hunt,

Prowess on display.

Everyone thanks Midnight…

Except the squirrel.

Bear Scare and Fox Fear

Such a silly girl!

I saw the bear.  

Or maybe he was only ONE of the bears that have been roaming my suburban New Jersey town. Either way, a big, black blur shot across my path while running in the South Mountain Reservation. My dog, Lucy, saw him first. That’s why she was straining at her leash.

At first, my brain said, “Big, black dog.  Very big.” I whipped my head around expecting to see a leash-weilding dog owner yelling, “Fido, get back here!” The man running in front of me turned around to face me. Did you see the bear?he asked. Oh, it wasn’t a dog!

Wow. So exciting! We both looked into the woods. The blur was gone. In seconds.

The young male bear (or bears) have been playing cat and mouse with the police. Some people are panicked; some are amused. Someone has started a Twitter account posing as the bear. I’m in the camp of, “Poor thing(s), they’re just trying to stake out their own territories.” Maybe I’m naive.   know bears can be dangerous, but I’m just not concerned.  Maybe because our suburban bear isn’t a mama.

Speaking of mamas, Hubby once found himself the object of a mama bear’s attention. In the middle of a golf course, looking up after planting a tee, a mama bear and her two cubs stood 30 feet away, staring him down. Hubby slowly walked backwards towards the golf cart, keeping an eye on the bears without looking actually looking at them. He said he took out the longest club in his golf bag. He and his golfing buddy decided to “keep the cart between us and them.”

The mama bear snorted and grunted, ambled to the edge of the course and scaled a tree faster than a monkey. Her cubs followed. Once the bears were hanging out in the upper branches, Hubby and his partner felt safe golfing. Not only did they discover why the course is named “Black Bear Golf Course,” they came away with good advice:  “Don’t ever climb a tree to escape a bear.”

As of two weeks ago, there are new “predators” in our town–foxes. Predator is in quotes because the only ones who should fear foxes are rodents, rabbits and birds. I don’t know if a fox would attack a small dog or cat, but otherwise sensible people are posting fox sightings daily. They are creating a FP (or Fairytale Panic)! The image of the fox as a villain may be deeply entrenched, but really!  If we didn’t have foxes, there would be so many bunnies, they’d start building bunny condos on top of their warrens. I have nothing against bunnies, by the way–and Watership Down in one of my all-time favorite books–but 1)this is the circle of life and 2)the foxes are doing what foxes do.

So, hats off to the bear who ran past me.

Maybe he was in a rush to get back to his cottage where he heard a girl named Goldilocks had eaten his porridge!

Lucy and Tucker cooling off in the Rahway River.
Lucy and Tucker cooling off in the Rahway River.