Where did that rock come from? It wasn’t there when I mowed the barnyard three days ago.
Coming down the loft stairs with an armload of hay for the llamas, I walked over to check out the new bump in the grass. Yikes! A female snapping turtle had dug a nest and was laying eggs. I wasn’t successful in getting a photo of the blacksnake under the steps last week, but I was able to get back to the house for my camera before this ugly beast lumbered off.
With our farm nestled between two creeks, we are accustomed to seeing these repugnant reptiles on a frequent basis. They’ve taken up residence in our pond, and occasionally we’re lucky enough to witness a pair doing the turtle tango.
The snappers around here are known as the Common Snapping Turtle, as opposed to the Alligator Snapping Turtle found further south. They rarely come on dry land, spending all their time in the water. If you see a turtle walking about, it most likely is a female looking for a place to lay her eggs. They generally lay from 10 to 50 eggs which will hatch in 3 to 4 months. The female will dig a hole with her back legs, deposit the ping pong size eggs, then cover them back up with dirt and smooth it over with her tail.
Not only are they ugly, but they are mean. That neck can dart out in an instant and stretches to nearly the length of their body. I always hate to see them in the pasture, because I’m afraid that a curious llama might bend down to sniff a snapper and get his nose bit. Once I used a shovel and a wheel barrow to load a turtle and wheel her 100 yards to the creek, but today I decided to just let her be and keep the llamas in their paddock for the day.
Last year about this time, we encountered a large snapper while on one of our llama treks. We were hiking a trail along the Shenandoah River, and came upon this turtle laying smack in the middle of the trail. The first five llamas and their handlers passed her to her rear side, but with each passing llama, she got more and more agitated, and when the fifth llama walked by, the turtle spun around and thrust out that neck and hissed. Jesse, the sixth and last llama in the string, was not going anywhere near that turtle, so I called up to Tim to come get it out of the path.
He found a 4 foot long stick and starting nudging at the turtle to encourage it to move out of the way. This really ticked the turtle off and she started biting at the stick. The stick kept getting shorter and shorter, till it was only about a foot long. Finally she moved enough that we could scurry past.
I’m told that the force of their bite is greatly exaggerated. Apparently they can’t snap off fingers and toes, and they will let go before it thunders, but I, personally, am not taking any chances. They haven’t survived for 40 million years by being shrinking violets.