This time of year many people are seeing snapping turtles digging in their yards or swimming in home ponds. Snapping turtles and other turtles make their nests in easily dug soil, so they may lay their eggs in backyards and gardens.
Snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina) are often described as aggressive, but a better term is defensive. They try to avoid confrontation and are more likely to defend themselves on dry land.
When they are on land, try to give them some extra space, and they will move on. In fact, if you see one on land it is usually a female looking to lay eggs. Snappers spend most of their lives in the water, where they will generally swim away from people when encountered and are usually docile.
Unfortunately, like many turtle species, snapping turtles face serious threats — being struck while crossing roads or collection for the food and pet trade. It is illegal to collect or relocate a snapping turtle without a permit.
If the area where turtle nests have been established must be disturbed, contact your regional wildlife office for guidance. If a snapping turtle nest can be allowed to remain, hatchlings will emerge in August or September but sometimes overwinter until spring.
Learn more about snapping turtles in the April 2017 issue of Conservationist magazine.
Photo of Snapping Turtle by Marcelo del Puerto.