A Morning Surprise

This is the time of year when I spend several mornings a week in the woods cutting up firewood from trees I have down the year before. Yesterday, I got going early while it was cool (46 degrees) and was just starting on the branches of a soft maple when I noticed what looked to be a cow patty in the ferns just under my chain saw. We have no cows on our land so I shut down and took a closer look. I was surprised to see a big turtle, just lying there dormant in the morning chill. Here’s a look:

We have lived here 15 years and this is the first turtle I have ever seen in our woods.

We have lived here 15 years and this is the first turtle I have ever seen in our woods.

I took a stick and moved the ferns aside for a photo. The guy/gal was not very interested in me.

That's a quarter on its back for scale. This was a pretty good sized terrapin.

That’s a quarter on its back for scale. This was a pretty good sized terrapin.

I moved the ferns back in place and went on with my work, cutting up a couple of loads of maple chunks, bringing them up to the wood lot, splitting them with a maul, and stacking them. It was a good workout and I decided to cool off and do some turtle research.

At first, I thought it was a Wood Turtle since we were in the woods and pretty far from any water. But they only grow from 6 to 9 inches and the pattern on the shell seemed wrong.

After lunch, I decided to go back out and measure the turtle if it was still there. Sure enough, it had not moved and I got about 11 inches in length for the shell – just using the rule in the air over the guy. The lighting was better so I took another iPhone shot.

From the size and the shell pattern, I'm calling this a Snapping Turtle.

From the size and the shell pattern, I’m calling this a Snapping Turtle.

Just before I left him, I took a close-up of him/her eyeballing me.

"Hey, don't you have work to do?"

“Hey, don’t you have work to do?”

It was a neat encounter and pretty low stress for both of us. I suspect he wandered off in the night but in any case, I always wear steel-toed boots when wood cutting and should feel more comfortable tromping through knee-high ferns. I suspect I’ll not see him again but it is cool to know that he, or she, is out there on our land.

This entry was posted in Critters, Turtles, Wood cutting. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A Morning Surprise

  1. Nice! That is most likely a female, looking for new territory in which to build a nest and lay her eggs. That is when you see them out and about on land.

    Have you read the excellent short story “The Man Who Shot Snapping Turtles” by Edmund Wilson? I first read it at the age of 12 and it stuck with me all these years. You can find it online.

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