Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Objects in Roadway Are Aliver Than They Appear

Friday on the Centennial Trail near Lemont, we're pedaling along headed for our special secret DirtFoot Cave, when all out of nowhere, LD screeches to a halt. Mind you, this is a paved, really well kept trail without a lot of room for surprises -- which can be good when you're trying to make time. 

Blimey! Suddenly a bit of the roadway had moved and it turned out to be this wee teacup-size baby snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina)! How LD spotted him I'll never know - he was doing an uncanny impression of blacktop.

He was definitely feeling under the weather, poor sod. Lou scooped him up and we got him off the road and to safety.

How, might you ask, could we tell he was feeling under the weather?

Well, he didn't even seem to be thinking about removing our fingers. That, my friends, is ALWAYS a bad sign for a snapper.

Here's the turtle re-locating process.
Note turtle is in sandwich bag.

Is LD just madly germophobic, you might ask?

Well, yes. But this one I have to give him - turtles actually do carry salmonella.  If you have to perform a rescue like this, it really is better to use gloves or a bag -- or at the very least wash up tout suite.

 Here's the Illinois Natural History Survey's excellent page on Snappies. :

LD and I love these guys for lots of reasons.

First, they are so damn prehistoric. They got really good at being turtles ages before we got good at being humans - and they haven't really needed to change much since. Same fetching face and everything!

(late Cretaceous extinct giant snapping turtle skull, from

Second, they have a ton of attitude, no matter their size. As a small creature with a lot of that myself, I respect Snappies.

Please note if you are lucky enough to meet one of these living fossils on dry land (LD met one in Humboldt Park): this is where their attitude really comes out.   They are pretty gentle in the water (which doesn't diminish the sheer ballsyness of the Turtle Man) but they're not at their best on land, and they're carnivores, so when they're healthy they can move startlingly fast.  (For a cool demo, check out LD's "snappy jump" video on his loudhvx channel on You Tube.) 

When we came back by on our way home, he had toddled off. Hopefully all he needed was to rehydrate and scarf down some juicy grubs.