Sharon Stiteler, Roving Ranger & Snapping Turtle Crossing Guard

Today, I had to do a "roving ranger" day for the National Parks Service at Coon Rapids Dam. Basically, we go out with a backpack full of brochures and ask people at random, "Hey, did you know you were in a National Park?" and politely and excitedly tell them about the trail system and various ways to enjoy the park. I also had my spotting scope in tow to show off the birds.

The Mississippi National Recreation and River Area that I work for as a park ranger is a unique park in that it is comprised of several smaller parks, and the NPS actually owns very little of the acreage. So, you could be in a county park or state park or city park along the Mississippi River and if you are in one of the 72 miles between the Crow River and the St. Croix're in the National Park. Like I said, it's a unique park. I was out with fellow ranger Rebecca and right as we were leaving, I noticed a lump in the road.

It was a small snapping turtle...with some kind of weird lump on it's back. We couldn't tell what the lump was (it was definitely not a snail) and quite frankly, we didn't want to get too close or you get this:

Rebecca and I both have some experience with turtles, usually when you see one crossing a road, heading away from a lake, it's a female laying eggs. Although, it's a bit late for snappers in Minnesota, but a lot of bird species are two weeks behind this season, so why not turtles too? Now, if this is a female going to lay eggs, you really do not want to pick her up, whether she is s a snapper, Blanding's, map, or whatever type of turtle. Females have water stored inside that they will use to wet the ground to help dig the hole in which they will deposit their eggs. If you pick up a female crossing the road, she will usually squirt out the water and after you put her across the street, she will have to go back and collect more water.

It's best to try and get traffic to stop and hurry the turtle much as one can hurry a turtle. This one kept snapping at us like crazy and turning around and following us. So, I held out a stick, she tried to bite it, and then started to chase the stick. I managed to kind of herd her along safely by dangling the stick and she got to the other side without her dropping any water. Meanwhile, my partner answered questions to passing cars, "Now, we're not just taunting the turtle. It's a snapping turtle, you really don't want to pick it up. We want to get her to the other side of the road safely. It's better that she bites the stick than the ranger's hand."

And excellent team effort.