June 8, 2011

When I saw a wild turkey crossing over the dirt road leading up to my house in the country the other day, I thought of Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States. Why? Because when it came to choosing a symbol of the United States, Ben Franklin thought the wild turkey was a more dignified bird than the bald eagle.  I’m not sure if I agree; the bald eagle is magnificent soaring in the sky and I think the turkey looked a bit pompous and stuck-up strutting across my road. But the turkey is a pretty interesting bird. It would rather walk than fly (though it can fly, at least for a minute or two). Seeing a single turkey is rare around here; I usually seem them in flocks of a dozen or more birds.


Not to be outdone by a wild turkey, a large snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) came walking across the same dirt road. I stopped the car to take a picture of the snapper. When I came close, the turtle turned around to face me, snapped and hissed. "OK," I thought. "I’m just looking. Let’s part friends!" And I got back in my car and watched the snapper disappear into the undergrowth. There’s a stream just nearby the road and I guess that’s where the turtle was headed.

A snapping turtle has a large head with strong jaws. This one was quite large - I would estimate about 14 inches from its head to the tip of its armored tail. That’s about the distance from your fingertips to your elbow. Unlike many other kinds of turtles, the snapper can’t withdraw its head into its shell. It relies on its jaws for defense and can bite hard enough to take your finger off. I wouldn’t try to pet a snapping turtle, and neither should you! Thinking it over, petting a wild animal is a "no, no" in every case, no matter what. Wild animals are not pets and should not be touched, for your own safety as well as theirs. 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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