Snap To It!

American Indians tell a story of how the weight of the world was built on the shell of the “Great Turtle,” a snapping turtle. The snapping turtle is honored for its strength and stamina.

Most people around here aren’t so kind. Snappers, they say, are ornery, aggressive, ugly, and good for nuthin’ but eatin’.


Photo: Ontley via Creative Commons 4.0

Snappers are all over the place in Virginia, if you know where to look. Old-timers will offer to come fish them out of your ponds for you, so they don’t chew off your duck’s feet.  “If a snapping turtle bites you, it won’t let go until it thunders,” they say.

Which, of course, isn’t true. Snapping turtles are shy creatures that won’t bite unless provoked. They look weirdly prehistoric because they are prehistoric, hanging around in ponds, virtually unchanged, for the past 90 million years.

Evolution passed them by. Or, you could say, they were built tough and just right to begin with. They didn’t need your stinking evolution.

Unlike other turtles, a snapper can’t tuck its head inside its shell.  But it can reach its amazingly long neck around and bite your fingers if you try to pick it up and don’t know what you’re doing. (I told you not to provoke him!)

Unlike box and painted turtles, the cuties of the turtle world, all of this has led to a bad reputation for snappers.

David Ortiz has a bad reputation because he does things like this.

Snapping turtles get a bad rap simply because they look strange.

The Oakland A’s Single A affiliate is the Beloit Snappers.

beloit snappers

The Snappers are off to a slow, turtle-like 14-22 start in the Midwest League, Western Division, this season, which isn’t very snapper-like. Only the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers have a worse record.

Come on, Snappers, snap to it!

The Wildlife Center of Virginia got this one, patient #15-0395, a few weeks ago after animal control in Culpeper, Virginia picked it up in a nearby park.


The vets think it got hit by a car, injuring its carapace (that’s poetic vet-speak for the top of a turtle’s shell). You can still see its injury.

The vets and rehabbers did their life-saving thing:

“We did a short regimen of pain killers and flushing of the wound. We also did a week of laser therapy to speed up cell regeneration in that area. The wound is still visibly present though the tissue is healed and closed. However, this guy is TOO feisty to stay with us, so he’s [ready to be set] free!”

They wrapped the “feisty” snapper up in a box and Editor/Husband brought it home so we could release it back at the park in Culpeper.

(Turtles are homebodies, hard-wired for their very limited territory. This is why it’s nice to help a turtle cross a busy road, but don’t take it any farther than that.)

help turtles cross the road

Cardboard boxes are fine for toting many things, like shoes, and cereal, and old tax records, but maybe not so much for transporting feisty 15-pound, 90-million year old prehistoric turtles. Snapper broke out of the box and was sitting in the back of the Subaru by the time Editor/Husband got home.

I’m sure the snapper was simply eager to get out of the hospital and back to its pond.

We got the snapper back into its box, headed to the park where it came from, and carried the box down to the creek bank.


Home Sweet Home.

I expect turtles to be slow and methodical about things. You know, slow as a turtle.

But, the actual release took only 10 seconds or so. Seven of those seconds was carefully turning the box on its side so the turtle could slip out onto the bank of the creek.


 Do not let anyone try to convince you that a cardboard box is a secure mode of transportation for a 15-pound snapping turtle.

Three seconds later, the turtle was off, diving into the water and out of sight.

And, there it goes … 





Wouldn’t you know it, we had the Dee Gordon of snapping turtles.

May 23 is World Turtle Day.

Happy snapping, Snappers!