It’s that time of year again when the snapping turtles hit the road . . . crawling up from swamps, bogs and ponds female snappers are nesting under the Turtle Moon of June. It’s not unusual to spy perhaps a half dozen turtles on the 20 km road to town. Most are well out of harms way on the shoulder of the road, but occasionally residents will stop to carefully usher turtles across the road. (They aren’t called snapping turtles for nothing and they have quite the reach!)
Females seek out dry, sandy sites 20 m (22 yards) away from shore for laying their eggs in soft underground where it can catch sunlight. Usually the best conditions are found in roadside gravel – where stones soak up the sun’s heat and help the eggs to mature. The annual pilgrimage makes for frequent sightings in June on Algonquin Provincial Park roadways including the 20 km road to Kawawaymog Lake from South River.
50 to 90% of the eggs laid don’t make it because of predators exposing the buried nests. On Friday, Todd encountered a racoon having a feast at one of the roadside nests in early evening on his way home to the Algonquin Park nature retreat. The critter scurried away so he could snap a photo of the partially exposed snapping turtle nest.
Snapping turtles don’t reach sexual maturity until around their 17th year and females can successfully lay eggs well into their 70’s!
Mothing isn’t quite their style however. The tiny snappers are left to find for themselves, digging their way out of the nest and making it to the wetland home where they will spend their lives. Hopefully they’ll evade predators until they are large enough to look out for themselves with their snapping defence.
As scary as they appear, snapping turtles are vegetarian for most of their lives, except early spring when vegetation isn’t abundant.