Like a dinosaur from the depths.

The Monsters of Summer

Submitted 5 months ago
Created by
Dave Celone

Why did the giant Snapping Turtle cross the road?

We live with snapping turtles all around us all year long here in VT and NH. They generally keep to themselves and won’t bite people unless provoked or frightened.

While driving Latham Road in E. Thetford yesterday behind a large’ish SUV, I didn’t have time to react to a large rock in the road.  Or, at least I thought it was a rock.  

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I passed safely over it and realized as I looked in my rear view mirror that it was a very large turtle. I turned around and drove back, putting my hazard lights on to warn other oncoming cars.  A car pulled up behind me and a friend got out to my surprise to watch and cheer me on.  I had already grabbed a large piece of cardboard from my car’s trunk and, gently, slid it under the tail, then back legs, then the entire shell of this big beast.  It was likely a she, and she weighed a fair bit as I slid her on this flimsy cardboard belly across the opposite lane and onto the grassy roadside, keeping her headed in the same direction the entire time.

I was afraid she might bite me knowing this is the season of late summer when these female giants lay their eggs.  I wanted to be very careful to avoid her maternal wrath.  Snappers can get ornery when out of water.  In the water they’re very shy and reclusive.  So I stayed directly behind her the whole time. The snappers, and other turtles, love to burrow into the sandy banks of roadways to lay their clutches of eggs. In the snappers’ case, only about one-tenth of one percent of eggs laid makes it to adult status. I wanted to give this turtle’s young slightly higher odds of survival.  

That was it.  She slid on down the opposite bank of the road and I tossed the cardboard sheet back in the trunk where it waits its turn to help save another turtle from oncoming cars. If you’re really keen on helping our local turtle population survive and thrive, I suggest you carry a snow shovel for just such roadway encounters. Just be gentle when sliding it under the legs and shell.  These turtles have been around for 90 million years, and they can live to be over 45 years old. But they don’t begin laying until the’re in their late teens, and all kinds of animals feast on their eggs—foxes, herons, raccoons, even bullfrogs and crows get into the act.

There’s nothing quite as thrilling as getting up close and personal with any animal whose species has been on this planet for many tens of millions of years. The craggy carapace, the hooked beak of a mouth, and the leathery neck so rough it looks like chain mail are enthralling to see, and any turtle, let alone a two-foot long snapper like the one I moved yesterday, is well worth the trouble of stopping your car and offering a helping hand.

A snapper only half way across. Lend a helping hand when you can!


So, why did the turtle cross the road?  Why to lay her eggs, of course!


Dave Celone a/k/a Poetic Licence writes about all kinds of interesting things in and around the Upper Valley of NH and VT. You can follow his latest pieces by Clicking Here, or following this link to sign up to get an email each time he posts.

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