Friday, June 28, 2013

Snapping Turtle

On our way down to the Bass Ponds in the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Erika and I stumbled over a Snapping Turtle. The reptile was probably touring, in search of a good egg-laying site. Note the leaches hitch-hiking on the turtle’s rear leg. No doubt the turtle provides both nourishment and a means of distribution for the leeches.

Despite being common (if not abundant) in Minnesota, Snapping Turtles are listed as a species of Special Concern in the state. Humans are about their only predator. Snappers are harvested for their meat, and the effects of commercial harvesting are unknown. Minnesota allows unlimited hunting of snappers with shells over a foot. Most of this hunting is in June, which is unfortunately just when turtles are laying eggs, thus affecting their reproductive potential. Snapping Turtles also harbour high levels of PCBs, which also may affect their reproductive capacity (and possibly also of that of humans who eat them) (MN DNR).

Snapping Turtles are sometimes thought to prey upon fish and waterfowl. They are, indeed, fairly omnivorous. These turtles, however, have been shown to eat “insignificat” numbers of game fish and mammals and large fish are a far more serious threat to nesting waterfowl (MN DNR).

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