First Patrol   Leave a comment

Snapping turtles feasting on a Carp carcass. (Photo: A. Leifso)

One of my most memorable days of turtling this summer was the first day we went out to patrol Spiny Softshell nesting site for nesting turtles. We had started walking at 11AM and although it was a beautiful day, we didn’t find any Softshells. The only thing to note was a handful of large dead fish that was being washed up on shore. On our last sweep of the beach, the two of us on patrol stopped suddenly at the same time because we saw the same dark spot up ahead by 150 meters. We started creeping up, voicing our thoughts out loud that this dark blob was way too big for a turtle. It neither turned out to be a Softshell or a single turtle. The dark moving blob was 8 Snapping Turtles feasting on the same large dead carp we had found earlier. Snapping turtles love to eat freshly dead things (carrion) for dinner but I had never until that moment seen such a large group of them feasting together.

Snapping Turtles wait to be measured before being released. (Photo: A. Leifso)

We quickly dropped everything we were carrying and ran up to them but as we approached we realized we did not have a plan! The snappers started to scatter so we caught the ones starting to swim into the deeper water. Turtles may be slow on land but they are super fast in the water and can quickly escape me (a mediocre swimmer at best). Carrying them to land, we used nearby thin logs as a makeshift playpen, although they probably thought it was more like a prison. Back and forth we ran, catching turtles by the carp and putting them in the pen, catching turtles escaping from the pen, and building ever more of our make-do holding pen.

Swallowtail Butterflies feasting on dead fish. (Photo: A. Leifso)

Our method of processing became refined. One of us was on lookout, catching any escapees and all the while being the note-taker. The other person measured and notched the turtles, which was quite difficult in the sand. We eventually mounded the sand into a pile to place the turtle on. We did this because on their backs, snapping turtles will roll right-side-up almost immediatly by using their long necks to reach down to push their heads against the ground and flip over. Setting them on a bit of a pedestal made it a little more difficult for them. All in all, it took 3 hours to process the 8 turtles and…

…days later, we found out snapping turtles aren’t the only creatures to feast together on dead fish!

– Ashley Leifso

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Posted September 23, 2011 by thinkingturtles in Uncategorized

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