Bad Tempered Wildlife; Snapping Turtle

Snapping Turtle Hanging About

Yesterday, Roger and I decided to wade up the creek in the valley behind my parent’s house. The creek is healthier than I have seen it in decades; full of wildlife, including fish, frogs, tadpoles (big fat ones!), crayfish and the occasional turtle.

“Hey, Dad, there is a turtle over there!”, Roger exclaimed. I looked and I didn’t see a damned thing. At first. When Roger makes such an observation, I know better than the doubt him.

Now, you might look at the picture at the right and think, “well, duh, it is obvious”. That picture is the product of modern technology! The reality was that said turtle was under some tree roots (seen at the top of the picture) in a deep shadow near the bank of the river. Not terribly obvious.

Moving a bit closer, fortunately not too close, the turtle became quite obvious. It was a snapper and a pretty good sized one, too!

Roger and I had talked about snapping turtles earlier in the week and I said that I knew how to pick one up. Of course, that meant that I was going to have to pick this particularly ornery beast up.

Can’t disappoint the son on Father’s day, after all!

Angry Snapping Turtle

Snapping turtles are one of the angriest of critters around. These are some seriously bad tempered critters. And they are well armed.

When something said turtle doesn’t like (or wants to eat) passes within about 6″ of its face, it’ll sit motionless until the target is within range. Then the turtle will shoot its rather rock-like head out with jaws wide open and then snap them shut. Flesh and bone is no match. Neither are shovel handles, if the snapper is big enough (this one wasn’t).

Given that they can also move side-to-side fairly fast and those are some really big/sharp claws on its feet, the safest way to pick up one of these is by the tail.

So, tail grab it was!

In the photo at left, I’m actually holding the turtle by the tail with my left hand and shooting the photo with my right. It is a little over a yard long from tail to snout.

Little did I know that snappers can flex their tails enough to swing a bit to get a bit of extra range for their head-thrust-and-snap attack. That was an exciting discovery.

I really need to teach Roger how to use my camera. It would have been easier.

One thing that is not conveyed in this image is just how bad the damned thing smells. Think stirred up sewage lagoon in the hot sun.

Snapping Turtle Bonding with Its Inner Rock

After checking out the turtle for a moment, I put it back in the creek.

Little did I know that my turtle adventure was not actually over!

It seems that when you irritate a snapper, they take it quite personally. Not only did the snapper keep one eye on me and one eye on Roger, it actually started to come after us!

Now, fortunately, they aren’t the fastest creatures in the world, but it is still a bit unnerving to have a 25 pound hissing, snapping, rock crawling through the creek after you.

Once it was clear we were moving on, it went back to lurking in the shadows, doing its best to look like a rock.

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12 Responses to “Bad Tempered Wildlife; Snapping Turtle”

  1. Scott Little says:

    This is a great Father’s day tale and reminds me of when I was a kid and did stuff like this with my dad.

    I had no idea that Snapping turtles got that big. That sounds like quite an impressive beast.

  2. Mark B says:

    Wow. You’re a braver man than I am – I’d never pick up a snapper that size. One of my earliest experiences with a wild animal involved getting a vicious bite from a snapping turtle. Their necks are surprisingly long and flexible.

  3. Matt Doar says:

    Funny! Doesn’t their tail get a bit stretched?

    Reminds me of when my kids wanted to see a leech so I was persuaded to stick my bare foot in a lake known locally as “Leech Lake”. It’s hard to miss the opportunity to impress our children.


  4. Jeffrey J Hoover says:

    I heard you know how to pick up cotton mouth snakes too! 😀

    Great fun!

  5. annbb says:

    My kids and I caught a baby snapper in the creek years ago and even when little they stink to high heaven! The only thing that smells worse than a snapper is a shed full of alligators on a hot Louisiana day. NEVER will I do that little tour again. Never!

    Wonderful photos and even better story.

  6. John C. Randolph says:

    What Mark B. said.

    I wouldn’t get within six feet of a snapper.


  7. Ken Anderson says:

    After the black widow…this doesn’t surprise me 🙂

  8. John C. Randolph says:

    In case anyone hasn’t seen this, enjoy the killer tortoise vs. a cat:


  9. Bob says:

    Very funny story. The pics definitely validate that this was an ornery little guy!

  10. Lindsey says:

    I too enjoyed the story. It actually got me researching a little on snapping turtles, I didn’t know, well anything about them before.

    I found that the smell that they are emiting is “musk” to which aspects of the cologne is attributed. I haven’t smelled the snapping turtle before, haha but i’m guessing it’s not quite stetson?

  11. Kevin says:

    Ahhh…the old creek…that brings back memories. You always were good with the turtles. 😉

    I’m really glad to hear the wildlife is thriving. Sorry we couldn’t catch up with each other back home.

  12. Sheryl says:

    Well I am sure glad you cleared that up..the smell that is..we found one on the road..and there was no way I could get it across as it lunged at parked truck beside so bad move..and the smell ! GROSS..I thought he had been hit and was rotting..or that we were on stinky swamp land! … was only the darn turtle natural

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