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snapping turtles

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  • snapping turtles

    Found a rather large (in my book anyway, probably ~15-20lb) snapping turtle on my property the other day. I have a small pond (maybe about 40m across) in my fields, close to my house, where he clearly lives.

    I recently bought the place about 8 months ago, so I do not know if he is transient or if he has taken up residence. I let him go (he was stuck on the wrong side of my backyard dog fence), with the agreement between myself & the DVM SO that if he returns to the house, he gets transported far away, since he is definitely a danger to our dogs.

    The question is then: is he a danger to the horses? They graze all around "his" pond, as it's smack in the middle of my upper field.

    I feel this is going to be only the beginning of the long list of creatures I will find, and in all likelihood will be low on the "danger" list as I live in an area of moccasins, cottonmouths, copperheads, and nutria (though none of which I have seen yet). So I'm not sure if I should get worked up about it.

  • #2
    Considering horses tend to get into all sorts of odd predicaments...I'm sure there's a horse or two in the world that ignored the hissing, mock charges and threatening of a large snapper and is missing a small chunk of nose.

    However it's not a normal thing to protect against usually. 99% of horses will either ignore them or spook away from them. Snapper will do the same. Usually same with dogs too.

    He might be a she...depending on location, in warm states I think they might be wandering for love or egg laying. 2Jakes is the expert on reptiles. I know how to move them and some basics about them...like the way to tell a male from a female turtle is by the bottom of the shell. Males have a concave dent on the back half, females do not.
    You jump in the saddle,
    Hold onto the bridle!
    Jump in the line!


    • #3
      Holy crap! A 20-pound turtle? Do you live near a nuclear plant or something?

      But you surmise correctly that the list of creatures you find will be long. My reintroduction (after a 30-year hiatus) to country life was a western diamondback rattler in my dog yard. Since then there've been copperheads, coral snakes, cottonmouths, scorpions, 7-inch centipedes, brown recluse spiders, poison caterpillars of an indeterminate species, and black widows. And that's just the venomous stuff. The list of predators and nuisance animals includes mountain lions, feral hogs, porcupines, foxes, coyotes, racoons, feral cats, and some really loud-ass toads that keep you up at night. And don't get me started on the rogue donkeys in the pool or the marauding longhorn cattle in the paddock.

      If you encounter even half of that, a snapping turtle (even a 20-pounder) might seem like a non-event. Stay positive, my friend.
      Dreadful Acres: the chronicle of my extraordinary unsuitability to country life


      • #4
        I once had a gelding who loved to swim and relax in the pond at the barn where we boarded. One day I heard this godawful screaming from the horse and as I tore out of the barn I saw him racing out of the pond with snapping turtles still clinging to him. He finally lost the last one as he raced around like a maniac.... when I finally was able to catch and calm him, I found that he had 32 bites on his legs, most of which were non-threatening. Onebite however was very deep and right on the point of his elbow. I called the vet out immediately and we treated him, but it took a really long time for him to heal. I'd opt for removing Mr. Turtle for the safety of your animals.
        "I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you..."


        • #5
          Twenty pounds is nothing for a Snapping Turtle. The ones around here reach the size of garbage can lids.

          Your happy wanderer is definitely a female. Snapping Turtles are completely aquatic & are very clumsy out of water & loathe to leave it. They don't even sunbathe like other turtles. The only Snappers you'll ever see out of water will be females, who can wander quite long distances in their search for an appropriate spot to lay their eggs. They unfortunately frequently become road kill during their quest.

          I once found one while weeding the vegetable garden, almost completely buried in the mulch. Lucky I didn't lose a finger, as she was a monster. Scared the daylights out of me. Closest body of water was easily 20 acres away, so she definitely had traveled.


          • #6
            Generally, if you leave them alone, they will leave you alone. Same for the horses! They do like to find weird spots to lay their eggs (like the side of the dirt road--my parents were able to save some of the babies but a lot were roadkill by the time they saw them.)
            Author Page
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            Steampunk Sweethearts


            • #7
              I lived next to an old quarry, which was about 3 acres adn 40 feet deep. I had a pond on my property, just 'downhill' from the quarry pond. One day my horse and cat were transfixed at the woods between the quarry adn pond, and I started to get anxious, thinking what was smashing through the waist high weeds and saplings there had to be probably was a skunk. Horse had no halter on. I just new the two of them were going to get it.

              What came lumbering out of the woods, across the pasture and into my pond was the biggest turtle I'd ever seen. A small boy could ride it. About 4 feet long in the shell, maybe 3 feet wide. HUGE snapping turtle. Must have been fermenting in that quarry for a hundred years (It was an old quarry). Like a dinosaure. The horse was hysterical, dancing all around it, the cat was stalking it and about the size of its head. Swear to dog. It lumbered into the pond, spent three days there eating all our fish out of the pond and snacking on the canada goose goslings, then when fish and ducks were all cleaned out, it moseyed on back up to the lake.

              It was a wake up call for me and my girls. We had spent the prior two years skinny dipping in that lake in the moonlight. Although I did swim in there a few times after that, I swam fast (for laps/exercise) and never did dare myself to dive down again. <shiver!>

              That's my snapping turtle story. They can grow huge. I wonder if they are one of those animals who grow all their lives until they die.
              My warmbloods have actually drunk mulled wine in the past. Not today though. A drunk warmblood is a surly warmblood. - WildandWickedWarmbloods


              • #8
                That is about the size of the one in our neighbor's dam that still has some water.
                In this drought, every other dam is dry now.
                We saw that 4' one once swimming around with a big log in it's jaws, like a retriever may do and it sure looked silly.

                I expect if a horse bothers one, it will get bitten wherever the turtle can reach it.

                Why don't you ask your local game warden?
                The sheriff can tell you who he is in your area.


                • #9
                  I boarded at a farm for several years that had two ponds in the pastures at either end of the property. At least once a year we'd find sizeable snapping turtles traversing through the fields to relocate from one pond to another.

                  The horses were slightly curious but overall TERRIFIED of them. There was noooo way any of them were going to get close enough to get bit by one. My biggest concern was that someone would break a leg one day in a panicked gallop, fleeing from the evil hissing monster.

                  I was at this farm at least 5 years and I'm happy to report we experienced no snapping turtle-related injuries ever.

                  When I was a kid, the local Park Ranger was missing his big toe. The story went that he was walking barefoot in a lake when a snapping turtle bit his toe clean off his foot... not sure how much truth there was in that story, but it did instill me with a healthy respect for snapping turtles!
                  Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO


                  • #10
                    Halfway between a dinner plate and a trash can lid, got stuck by the lip of the shell in the electric fence and died there. DH was bummed, I was bummed, but glory! 32 bites? Galapagos tortoise sized? Devoured all the fish and the goslings - you're lucky it didn't grab the cat too! Count me out, I don't feel that bummed anymore!
                    Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                    Incredible Invisible


                    • #11
                      I grew up in the FL panhandle and had the fear of God put into me at a very young age about Alligator Snapping Turtles. This is ironic given how common Alligator Alligators are - also grew up being told that no fresh body of water exists in FL that does not have at least one alligator. Anyway, I think the only one that I have seen was easily as big as my large truck tire in the parking lot of my husband's workplace in Mayport, FL. It was getting dark, and the dark turtle was on the dark parking lot. So, I told my husband he had to move it, so that it wouldn't get hit by a car. Unlike the video below, the turtle my husband tried to move had an accordian neck that could reach the back of his shell and LIGHTNING fast reflexes. Thankfully, my husband also had fast reflexes and didn't lose an arm. I've had lots of turtle and tortoise experience as a kid, and I had never seen anything that fat or with a neck that long. We ended up just letting the base security and squadron duty officer cordon off the parking lot.

                      Here is an alligator snapping turtle video, which does not showcase the accordian neck which I swear I saw:

                      I would encourage OP to get some tough pecking birds like guineas or turkeys - as I do think they run off snakes. Our chickens never patrolled very far, but our turkeys and geese patrolled our entire property. We live literally surrounded by swamp on the MS Gulf Coast AND have a pond, and we found only 2 small dead snakes thus far (18 months).
                      Disclaimer: Just a beginner who knows nothing about nothing


                      • #12
                        We have snappers visit our farm every now and then. One female laid her eggs (in our composted manure) and stayed in our barn to cool off--poor thing was exhausted. When you live in the country it is important to find a balance with the flora and fauna around you. You should be fine.
                        I LOVE my Chickens!


                        • #13
                          Here's my snapper story...I live in NC, no pond but both my neighbors about 20 acre acres away do. One day I saw the horses snorting all sorts of stuff around their run-in so I went out to investigate. Was thinking I'd find yet another black snake but instead was about 3' round snapping turtle! The thing actually charged me as I came down the lane. I grabbed a pitch fork and put the handle in it's mouth (which it eagerly grabbed onto), picked it up and put it in a large muck bucket with plywood and a cinder block on top. We then got it in the back of the truck and moved it back to a pond. I figured that might be where it was headed anyway. Funny thing is I have non-climb fencing around my whole property so it either burrowed under the fence or found the one gate on the backside of the property to crawl under. Scared the be-jesus out of me!! Although not as bad as the copper head snake my mare stepped on while trotting up my driveway and killed immediately...she didn't even see it and neither did I until we were right upon it. She squished it right in half
                          Read about my time at the Hannoveraner Verband Breeders Courses:


                          • #14
                            I think these sound like some great turtle stories...but my experience in our pond is they are incredibly shy, stay away from anything near the edge that moves, and are pretty hard to even catch a glimpse of. We have a 2 acre pristine pond, and I know there are a few that are probably 40 years old and 1.5-2 feet across. They let us be, and we return the favor. Snapping turtles feed on carrion at the bottom of the pond...they are an important part of the ecosystem and I've never heard of anyone being bothered by them. We have females looking to lay eggs that wander around the farm, but even they don't mind us much ... they have a purpose and they are on it. I say leave them be.


                            • #15
                              As in the toad thread- understanding the age of these animals should surely garner some respect.

                              I found one stuck trying to crawn under a woven wire fence and thought i'd relocate. I tipped it into a wheelbarrow, wheeled it up into the bed of a pickup truck, closed the tailgate and went in the house to get the keys and tell my husband where I was going. When I got back to the truck- turtle was GONE. Not in the truck and nowhere in sight.

                              Idaziens- I once saw some redneck guys stop and try to pick up a snapper who was in the middle of the road- she whipped around with that accordion neck and grabbed his finger- he dropped the big turtle but she was still hanging on his finger... owowowow!


                              • #16
                                I caught one crossing the road right in front of our house that was over 2' in diameter. I grabbed it by the tail, and threw it in the back of the truck. A guy lives a few miles down the road that eats turtles, so I carried it to him. By the time I got to his house, the turtle was under the toolbox in the truck.

                                The toolbox is the largest size made, and the guy is fairly old, so he couldn't get all the way down on the floor to reach under the toolbox. He stuck one hand and arm under there, with his other hand balancing him on the edge of the bed, and his face looking up beside the back of the toolbox. It was like someone feeling around in the dark for something. He found the tail, and came out of the truck with him.

                                The next one I found, I put in the tractor bucket, and relocated at the other end of the farm.


                                • #17
                                  I live in a swamp. Really. It's nothing but wetland.

                                  We've got snappers that look like extras from Jurassic Park. They're gigantic. And they're mean mean mean.

                                  They don't bother the horses, but they get really pissed off if you try and shovel them into a wheelbarrow.
                                  Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
                                  Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
                                  -Rudyard Kipling


                                  • #18
                                    We've got tons of turtles in our pond about 100' from the barn. Most all are sliders and we enjoy watching them. But every once in a while we'll notice snappers. The last 2 DH caught were trash can lid size. Like Tom King's, ours also went to a turtle eater. I don't worry about the horses as much as I do the dogs and especially my ducks and geese. I like my birds a whole lot more than I do mean nasty snappers.


                                    • #19
                                      Snappers give me the willies. They can get so big & they are so primal (dino like, as mentioned above).

                                      In retrospect, I think it was to keep me away from the farm pond (and boy did it ever work), but the descriptions my parents would give me of what a snapping turtle could do....shudder.

                                      My Sicilian grandfather would catch them & feed the family for a week.


                                      • #20
                                        Snappers get huge! While they do generally leave people, horses, etc alone they can be cantankerous beasts.

                                        Though you have to admit, if you were a turtle who couldn't hide well in your shell like everyone else, you'd be pretty pissed too.