Young snapping turtles are beginning to hatch and make their way to area waterways where they will spend many years growing to full adult size. / Rob Zimmer/For Wisconsinoutdoorfun.com
Itís late-summer and as the warm fall sun warms quickly during these clear, crisp days leading into autumn, turtles, snakes and frogs are on the move.
Often, these cool, crisp frosty mornings of late summer and fall lure these reptiles and amphibians to the warmth of concrete and blacktop roadways and recreational trails. Unfortunately, this leads to the death of hundreds, even thousands of these amazing creatures each fall season.
Take extra caution when driving through wetlands, especially, to avoid causing injury to these animals. Pay attention to wildlife crossing signs, and take special care in areas displaying turtle crossing signs or signs warning of basking snakes.
Salamanders also make mass movements across area roadways during the autumn night, especially during fall rains.
I recently came upon many snakes, turtles and frogs while walking the trails at a local nature center.
The snakes were everywhere. Newly born northern red-bellied snakes slithered frantically over the trail as they attempted to reach safety on the other side. These newborn snakes, just four inches long, are on their own at birth, requiring no care or nurturing from the mother snake.
Northern red-bellied snakes, which are colored from light tan to near black, and every shade of brown in between, have a distinct, flaming reddish orange underside. The female gives birth to live young late in summer and fall. She can carry from one to 24 young snakes.
In addition to the red-bellied snakes, garter snakes enjoyed basking on gravel patches along the trail and limestone rocks bordering the paths. These snakes will soon be heading into winter by gathering in large numbers in underground cracks and crevices or limestone bluffs.
A large snapping turtle surprised me on the trail just recently, as well. These huge, ferocious looking creatures are among the most fascinating reptiles in our area. With their heavily textured skin, shell, tail, and head, these turtles have a prehistoric appearance.
For good reason, many people steer clear of these creatures when encountered in the wild. A snapping turtle can cause severe injury with its powerful beak-like jaws that can easily remove a finger or toe or cause a deeply painful cut.
I watched a medium-sized turtle displaying and posturing for me along the trail in typical snapper fashion. Unlike painted turtles, which can withdraw their legs tail and head deep within their shell for protection, a snapping turtle is not able to do so fully.
A snapping turtle, even a newly hatched one, has a distinct defensive posture. The turtle will often raise its hind legs, lifting the rear portion of it shell high over its shoulders. It will constantly position its body to face its potential predator, scratching into the soil noisily with its huge powerful claws. Often, the turtle will open wide its razor-sharp jaws, giving a preview of what could happen if you get too close.
The danger comes in underestimating the turtleís reach, as well as the incredible speed at which a snapping turtle can strike out. The turtle can flex its neck far out from its body, as well as arching it backward along its shell.
This time of year, snapping turtles are on the move. Younger turtles may be seeking new bodies of water in which to establish territories. Some turtles may be moving from one body of water to the next where they will spend the winter.
In addition, nests of snapping turtles are hatching. During the days of late summer and fall, deeply laid eggs begin to hatch and the tiny young claw their way up to the surface and begin the long journey back to water.
ó Rob Zimmer: 920-993-1000, ext. 7154, or email@example.com