We have had a bit of a dry season here in Minnesota. Some would even say we are in a moderate drought. On one of my bike rides in September, I noticed some freshly hatched snapping turtles on the Cedar Lake Trail–most of them were in various states of flatness from bikers running over them. I paused to examine one of the smashed one and noticed one in the yellowing grass that hadn’t crossed the paved trail yet. I nudged it with my shoe and it barely moved. I picked it up and it was very dry, I wondered if it was dehydrated and wouldn’t make it to the safety of water. Cedar Lake was closer, but all the smashed turtles seemed to be heading towards another nearby lake called Lake of the Isles. I placed the nearly immobile snapper in one of my many travel cups in my bike satchel and poured in a little water. With in ten seconds the turtle perked right up. I didn’t put a lot of water in, just enough to stand in and keep its head above water.
Not sure what to do I took the tiny snapper home, made a make shift pond in a giant pasta bowl, filled it with some small pieces of turkey and a few pieces of earthworm. It took bites of both. I placed some lettuce leaves in from my farm share and the turtle seemed content to hide under that. When I moved, the snapper would dart under the lettuce. If I stayed still while typing, it would slowly creep out and extend its neck just enough so its tiny nostrils were above water.
Non Birding Bill came home and saw it on the kitchen table and said, “We’re not keeping it…right?”
“No,” I said, “just wanted to give it a bite or two before I send it off to Lake of the Isles.”
I posted some pictures on my various social medias and a friend who doesn’t know animals very well but loves all things cute sent a message, “Tiny turtle! Wait, turkey? They’re not vegetarian?”
I then had the fun task of informing them that snapping turtles are omnivores and those baby ducks they find so cute…snapping eat those too. Something so tiny and cute will grow up to be a monster in dark murky water. But that’s ok, ducks have their own dark sides when they grow up–every animal has a dark side.
After a night at Chez Stiteler, I took the tiny snapper to Lake of the Isles. I found a nice shallow spot with lots of vegetation for it to hide in and some good insect larvae potential. The turtle was anxious to get away from me and start life. I stuck around a few minutes to watch how it would acclimate to such new and large surroundings. It wanted as far away from me as possible. Understood, big things mostly mean to eat you, tiny turtle. Here’s some advice: don’t trust a heron.