SNAPPING TURTLES ARE ON THE MOVE AND LAYING EGGS IN CENTRAL PARK; WHAT TO DO IF YOU SEE ONE

It’s egg-laying season for snapping turtles, and people have been seeing them walking around Central Park, sometimes in unexpected places. Like walking across the loop road in the middle of the day.

Tovy, who sent the photos above and below, was running in Central Park earlier this month when she came upon the snapping turtle. She told us the story:

“I was running in the park going north from the east side. As I got to the flat section of the main loop that is across from what I think is the west part of the Harlem Meer (a little but before the steep run up Harlem Hill), I saw a turtle right off the curb from the wooded area of the park.  I was definitely surprised as she was a big one so stopped to look. She was definitely trying to cross the road towards the meer, and I was really worried that she would get hit by a biker (they go quite fast and there were a lot of cyclists out).  When I was debating what to do, like whether I should pick her up and try to move her, a couple of British (I think!) tourists stopped on their bikes and came to see her too.  She definitely drew a bit of a crowd.  After explaining my worry that she would get hit crossing the road, one of the two tourists that originally saw me hovering over her decided to help by picking her up and placing her on the grass on the other side of the road.”

Lorri Cramer, a New York State wildlife rehabilitator and turtle expert, tells us that they’ve been particularly active around the full moon. There are at least 15 snapping turtles in Central Park, she notes.

“The Snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) is the official New York State reptile. Turtles are older than the dinosaurs and the snapping turtle does not look very different from the prehistoric version.  These turtles live in most of the fresh water streams and ponds in the city. Close to the full moon in late May and early June, you might see them marching around the city, sometimes in strange or unlikely places.

This past week, we received a number of calls from folks encountering snapping turtles in Central Park. The female turtles have been climbing out of the water and exploring the surrounding area. They are looking for the perfect spot to make their nests.  They are searching for higher ground, soft soil to dig into and a site facing the sun which will keep their eggs warm. Depending on the temperature, the eggs will hatch anywhere between 9 and 18 weeks. Snappers can lay anywhere from 24 to 80 eggs at one time and have no problem laying their eggs during daylight.

If you see a snapping turtle, there is no reason to be afraid. As long as you don’t approach her, she will leave you alone. After she lays her eggs, she will turn right around and go back to the water.

In the water, these turtles tend to be shy and usually swim away or bury themselves in the sediment at the bottom of the lake or stream when they see anything large approaching. When out of the water their only protection is their sharp beak . They also hiss and will even push their back legs straight up so that they appear larger. One of the reason why they appear so aggressive on land is that they have little protection from their shell. The carapace, ( or top shell) does not close and is too small to protect the fleshy legs and the plastron (bottom shell) is almost none existent.

About 80 percent of their diet consists of greens. They walk along the bottom of the pond trimming the grass and plants and keeping the body of water from becoming a swamp. They also eat dead animal matter and have been know to pull down sick and lame ducks and small ducks and geese.

Despite their bad press, Snapping Turtles are an important part of a healthy habitat. As scavengers, they help to keep the water clear of rotting animal and plant matter and keep the water plants and grasses trimmed so that the lakes and ponds do not become swamps.”

NEWS, OUTDOORS | 18 comments | permalink
    1. ScooterStan says:

      And remember 3 things:

      1) SNAPping Turtles have no connection with SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program)a.k.a. Food Stamps;

      2) nor do they have a connection to SNAPchat;

      3) and the last thing to remember is:
      “A kiss…..is just a kiss /
      a sigh…..is just a sigh /
      The fundamental things apply /
      …..As time goes by.”

      Play it, Sam !

    2. geoff says:

      i’ll go first: while on the road, the turtle was in peril. was it helpful (to the turtle) to move it farther in the direction it was travelling?

      it was clearly helpful for the tourists who thought they were doing the right thing, and did.

      • Lorri Cramer says:

        Yes, the tourists were completely right in moving the turtle in the direction she was going. Had they moved her to a different location, she would have just turned around and tried to cross the road again.

    3. Ronnie Tuft says:

      Is there something one should do if one sees one crossing a path or roadway which may prove dangerous to the turtle (or cyclists? Example: should one pick it up and transfer it to the side it is heading towards? And are there instructions on how to pick one up safely?
      Thank you.

      • Lorri Cramer says:

        IHow to Help a Snapping Turtle Cross the Road

        Snapping turtles have sharp beaks and one needs to be careful when handling them. They also have long necks which can reach around to about half way down the shell. Still, there are a number of ways to help them get to the other side of the road without getting injured.

        1. Always handle a snapping turtle from the back of the body.

        2. The easiest way to move a snapping turtle is to slip a car mat or a shovel under the bottom of the back shell and then slide the turtle in the direction it was going. One might also use a piece of wood or even a number of sheets of newspaper.

        3. If you need to pick up a snapper by hand, do so by sliding one hand under the bottom shell between the back legs and with the other hand hold onto the back of the upper shell or carapace above the back legs. (This is tricky as they do have sharp claws)

        4. Another possible way to hold a snapping turtle is to put your hands on either side of the body well below the midline. A snapper can reach to about the midline or where its waist would be.

        5. Do not ever pick any turtle up by its tail because you could damage its spine.

        There are many videos out there about handling snapping turtles. Many are not correct but one that I find very helpful is put out by the Toronto Zoo:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lgd_B6iKPxU

      • Young Sally says:

        My sister had to do this up in Westchester. There was a snapping turtle trying to cross rt 22….and traffic was at a standstill because no one knew what to do. One guy was trying to hurry it along with a flimsy rake.

        She went to her trunk….got out a blanket (although her trunk has everything MacGyver might ever need) threw it over the turtle….took him to the side of the road and put it on the drop-off where the rain water goes. Problem solved.

    4. Raised in the country says:

      Do not pick them up or approach them. Their beaks are extremely sharp and their reactions quick. While a wonderful part of our ecosystem, snapping turtles can do real damage to one’s fingers!
      (From a New England farm girl who grew up around them.)

    5. Wendy says:

      Remember the Turtle soup song/poem in Alice in Wonderland; or, Through the Looking Glass ? Do snapping Turtles have a strong bite ? Was a guy in Costa Rica murdered , @ 3 years ago, cuz he was trying to protect some [endangered ?] Turtles ? Have pet shops in U.S.A. stopped selling those tiny green turtles ? Are the tortoises in the Bronx Zoo still alive ? How’s that job of : wanted a walker for a tame Turtle ? Eh,turtle’s NOT an ingredient in bouillebaisse.

    6. Mark says:

      This article doesn’t really tell us what to do if we encounter one except “don’t be afriad”.
      Should we remove it from a road to keep it safe from bicycles and joggers or just let them be? Did the British tourists do the right thing?

      • Lorri Cramer says:

        How to Help a Snapping Turtle Cross the Road

        Snapping turtles have sharp beaks and one needs to be careful when handling them. They also have long necks which can reach around to about half way down the shell. Still, there are a number of ways to help them get to the other side of the road without getting injured.

        1. Always handle a snapping turtle from the back of the body.

        2. The easiest way to move a snapping turtle is to slip a car mat or a shovel under the bottom of the back shell and then slide the turtle in the direction it was going. One might also use a piece of wood or even a number of sheets of newspaper.

        3. If you need to pick up a snapper by hand, do so by sliding one hand under the bottom shell between the back legs and with the other hand hold onto the back of the upper shell or carapace above the back legs. (This is tricky as they do have sharp claws)

        4. Another possible way to hold a snapping turtle is to put your hands on either side of the body well below the midline. A snapper can reach to about the midline or where its waist would be.

        5. Do not ever pick any turtle up by its tail because you could damage its spine.

        There are many videos out there about handling snapping turtles. Many are not correct but one that I find very helpful is put out by the Toronto Zoo:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lgd_B6iKPxU

    7. Nukleopatra says:

      Clearly a team of full-time turtle crossing guards needs to be assembled.

    8. Barbara Michalak says:

      Snapping turtle pix, news, background and discussion. Why I love westsiderag.

    9. Paul RL says:

      She’s cute! Then again, I’m a sucker for not-so-cuddly beasts. When I was a kid I always wanted a pet rhinosaurus. Okay, I still do.

      • GG says:

        That’s exactly what I said about my ex-wife!:)

        As far as the pet rhino, I like it. Do they make a teacup version? No barking, no shedding…i’m sold.

        • Paul RL says:

          Just so I’m clear, your ex-wife was cute? Or a not-so-cuddly beast? At any rate, I’ll look into a pet-sharing program. I’ll walk the rhino. You can do the scooping!