The Trouble with Turtles

Holy, crap! What was that in the middle of the road?

I pulled over on the side of Airline Drive in Colonie this morning after nearly running over a huge snapping turtle. By huge I mean its shell was larger in diameter than a good sized dinner plate. Why was it crossing the road? Apparently, to get to the other side.

As a citizen of the great state of New York, I saw it as my duty to remove our official reptile from the road before it was flattened by a careless driver. First let me say that you should be prepared for a fight if you ever decide to pick up a snapping turtle.

I approached it from the rear, grasped it firmly by the sides of the shell, and lifted. The turtle writhed in my hands and tried to twist its head around to bite me.

Wouldn’t that be a fine headline in the TU: “Local man saves turtle, loses finger.”

Snapping turtle in Colonie

By the way, here’s what DEC says about snapping turtles:

These turtles will snap at anything they find threatening. Their snap is so powerful that it can easily shear fingers – so stay a safe distance away!

This is why I need an iPhone, so I can do research before, not after.

Anyway, with the help of a ski pole (yes, I’m aware it’s May) from the back of the car, I guided the turtle to safety.

It’s a good day. The turtle is safe, I’ve got all my fingers, and a number of drivers have a funny story to tell, about how they saw some nut with a ski pole herding a turtle on the way to work.

21 thoughts on “The Trouble with Turtles

  1. Did you hear about the turtle that got mugged by 2 snails? When the cops asked him if he remembered anything he said”I don’t know it all happened so fast.”
    thank you I’m here all week……

  2. Was the turtle lost? The pond isn’t that close to there. Growing up, I spent a lot of time on River Rd in Latham and we used to watch the fools caring drivers try to move the turtles off the roadway. And would laugh when the turtles didn’t seem to appreciate the gesture.

    Is that confetti on his back? Did you throw him a party once he was safely off the roadway?

  3. Glad you were thoughtful and careful, Rob. That could be one of our state legislators hurrying to pass the state budget. You DID point it toward downtown Albany?

  4. Good for you for “herding” the snapper. We live up in Washington Co. and I have noticed increasing turtle (snapper and painted) activities.
    BTW, I previously worked on many engineering/construction sites and when we can across a large snapper, two people would extend a shovel (like a limbo stick), the turtle would latch on and then it was carried (safely)off-site. Even the recently hatched snappers can inflict an injury. Enjoy the summer!

  5. We’ve rescued several snapping turtles from a popular turtle crossing near us. When they are big like that, I use one of the car mats: I coax them on to it, then drag them across the road, and coax them off. A handy tip if you ever take the ski poles out of the car.

  6. Thanks to everyone for reading my turtle tale. I’m really happy that at my age I still get excited by things like this!

    Jen: I don’t know how far the turtles roam from Ann Lee Pond, which is a couple of hundred yards from where I saw him or her. There’s also a swampy area somewhat closer. On the turtles back were what appeared to be small flower petals, like it was under a bush, or something.

  7. Awesome! I love snappers . . . I was walking around Indian Pond at UAlbany campus recently and saw a big boy sunning himself on the bank. I stood there watching him for awhile, and as other people would pass by, I’d point and enthuse “Look! Big snapping turtle! Wow!” But they all just smiled nervously and kept walking. I forget, sometimes, that not everybody’s as much of an 11-year old as I am . . .

  8. That Momma Turtle was looking for a nice patch of warm gravel to lay her eggs. They are all over the Colonie and Nisky bike paths this week, and you can watch them dig out their nests

  9. Stan: That’s what I figured; I’m now hearing that a lot of people have seen turtles crossing around that same spot.

    This one was not pleased with my attention.

  10. Supposedly, if you pick up a snapper by holding it on either side of its tail it can’t reach its head far enough back to bite you. I have not, however, had the courage to try this out, so I can’t promise that it actually works.

    We used to just stop traffic until the turtle made it to the other side of the road. That was in the Adirondacks though, where ‘traffic’ is, maybe, one other car.

  11. Awesome.

    I have a soft spot for turtles (even the crotchety Snappers) so I always stop and try to help them across the road. You know what else works with Snappers? If you dangle your cars floor mat in front of it, kind of like waving a cape at a bull, it will snap at it and may just latch on long enough for you to gently pull it to safety.

  12. Jennifer: That’s interesting about the floor mat; someone else mentioned that, too.

    I believe there’s a cosmic scorecard, and one of the items on the checklist is, “How did this person treat animals?” It’s very gratifying to read comments from so many people who would stop and help a simple turtle.

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