I work as an Interpretive Naturalist at Springbrook Nature Center in Fridley, Minnesota on the weekends. This job is full fun surprises and odd tasks. I never really know what to expect when I go in. Last time I worked there was a rubber made tub on the front desk full of vermiculite (a substance often used in potting house plants). On top of the tub was a note that read “release any new hatchlings by stream”. There was also a note documenting the day the eggs had been laid and when the first individuals had hatched.
I still didn’t know exactly what to expect when I opened the tub. I didn’t even know what animal would be in there!
I cracked the top and found 15 tiny Snapping Turtles, each no bigger than a half-dollar.
I picked up each tiny turtle and placed them in a smaller bucket with a bit of water. Each turtle still had a small bit of yolk attached to their underside, the turtle equivalent of a belly button.
I took the whole brood to the pond and released them in a quite back water pool where I have seen newly hatched turtles in the past. An area free of fish, herons and other turtles.
Each turtle hit the water swimming, some snapping at small aquatic insects from the moment their feet were wet.
Like miniature versions of the 30 or 40 pound adults they pushed through the weeds and disappeared beneath the duckweed. (Note: You can still see the ‘egg tooth’ on the turtle in the picture above. This is a small white protrusion from the beak that enables the turtle to push through the leathery shell. The egg tooth is only visible in newly hatched turtles.)
Snapping Turtles are among the most primitive turtles in the world. They have not changed since the Jurassic period. Their fossils lay among those of dinosaurs but look nearly identical to the turtles we see today. Snapping Turtles are an important part of the wetland ecosystem. Next time you see one crossing the road give it a brake and help it across. They are just trying make it in a ever changing world!
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