Field Notes: Snapping Turtle

I was looking at the new lily pads in the Lullwater in Prospect Park when:
Ol’ Snap appeared. Not the kind of turtle to run when you approach.
Chelydra serpentina has a fearsome reputation, but that’s probably just bad PR. (Duckling-centric PR, since they are in legend supposed to decimate baby ducks.) Still, you don’t want to get bit by the thick-necked beast.
This one was about 16″ long from snout to tail tip. And note that long tail, with small spikes looking rather dinosaur-ish: none of our other turtles has such a prominent tail. Also, the toothy projections on the rear edge of the carapace (top shell) are distinctive. (The Canada goose wasn’t intimidated by me or the snapper.)
This carapace is beautiful. Another anatomical fact about snappers is that they have very small plastrons (underside shell). These turtles do not bask, so it was nice to catch this one emerging from the murk below.

13 Responses to “Field Notes: Snapping Turtle”

  1. 1 Lisa May 8, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    gosh, I’ve never seen the tail (or maybe I’ve forgotten) but it does make the turtle appear even more pre-historic than most.

  2. 2 Amber Coakley May 19, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    It is great to have the chance to look at the beautifully colored and patterned carapace in your full-resolution images. Look at that thick neck – could be a linebacker!

    • 3 mthew May 20, 2010 at 7:33 am

      Yes, this is a surprising clean carapace, considering the muck this one spent the winter in. All the water is Prospect Park is city water, which means it’s clorinated, and I wonder if that cuts down on the watery flora you often see attached to turtles?

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