Snapping turtle

Common Snapping Turtle

Lately, I’ve received repeated questions about snapping turtles in anticipation of their annual nesting near the lighthouse. Where do they nest? When do they show up? Each June, female snapping turtles (Chelydra Serpentina) crawl out of the river to lay their eggs in a nesting area near the start of the lighthouse trail. The turtles scoop out a hole using the claws on their hind feet and deposit a clutch of some 2 to 5 dozen eggs that look like ping-pong balls. I’ve heard reports of turtles on the beach within the past week. Yesterday, a snapping turtle rested on the sand at the base of the lighthouse, nose to the granite stones, beneath the ramp from the dock. It’s shell (or carapace) was at least a foot and a half long. Sitting motionless, onlookers wondered if it was even alive. Aside from slow breathing and occasional eye movements, the turtle was seemingly lifeless. I figured it was taking a siesta in the heat of the day and was waiting for the tide to rise before swimming away. Sure enough, it appeared to perk up when the cool water eventually reached it. By morning, it was gone. How old is a snapping turtle that size? I can’t say for sure, but snapping turtles live thirty to forty years. Now, I’ve also heard some talk about catching and eating snapping turtles. Not such a good idea. Snapping turtles eat near the top of the food web and live a long time. That means that they can accumulate a lot of toxins in their tissues over their lifespan–toxins such as mercury and PCBs. Better to see than to taste.