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The City Slicker and the Snapping Turtle


We found this guy (actually, I think it’s a girl) on the road today. I wasn’t actually SURE it was a snapping turtle, and I figured Lily could outrun it in a pinch–plus, I needed some scale. So I made her get in the picture.

Which the next person to pull over clearly thought was CRAZY.

My plan was to cautiously approach the turtle from the rear, pick it up with both hands and put it in the bushes. I have never been so glad to be prevented from executing a plan, because several elements of this one were really, really bad ideas.

I think the old guy–I mean, older gentleman–who pulled over next would have left the turtle in the road. And I think he would have left me to it, too, but he could clearly see I was not someone who should be left alone with both a snapping turtle and a small child. So he produced, after rummaging around in his car for a while, his weapon of choice for coping with wary snapping turtles (this one had her eye on us in a big way): a lawn chair. I feel that a real pro would have had something with less in the way of colorful stripes and folding action, but the locals around here don’t really go in for specialized equipment.

He prodded the turtle, while I said things like “are you sure you can’t just pick it up from behind?” and “I wasn’t going to let her get too close to it, I know what it is.” Which was kind of an exaggeration but I WAS going to err on the side of caution. Because I just heard a thing about snapping turtles on NPR last week. I didn’t tell him that, though.

The turtle immediately snapped her jaws around the bar of the chair with surprising speed and ferocity. Then she peed. If I had picked her up, the best case scenario is that I would have freaked out and dropped her before she peed on my shoe. A more likely one is that she should have bitten me while peeing all over me, and maybe hung on besides. I think she could totally have got her head around. She looked capable of things ordinary turtles only dream of. And it would have hurt. You could see the battle scars on the chair (which, now that I come to think about it, gives that dude a really cool story to tell the next time he goes fishing and uses that chair. I think I’m jealous).

And the moral of this story is … Is there a moral? Will I be more dubious of saving the snapping turtle next time? Will I learn to swerve around this, the slowest of wild animals? At least remind Lily to be ready to run, and not into the road? Probably not any of those things. Probably next time, I will do exactly the same thing. I guess I better put a lawn chair in the car.


One Response to “The City Slicker and the Snapping Turtle”

  1. Jess says:

    You can move them WITH something in their mouth because those beasts just don’t let go once they clamp down on something…

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