Snapping into spring

Springtime in PPL’s Susquehanna Riverlands is the time when the urge to procreate kicks into high gear for the animals and plants that make their home here. The female common snapping turtle in this picture is laying her eggs in a hole she’s dug especially for that purpose. She’ll then cover them with dirt to hide them and keep them warm while they incubate.

And that will be her last effort on their behalf. She won’t check on the eggs over the 80-90 days it takes for them to hatch, won’t help the hatchlings dig their way out of the nest or teach them how to avoid the raccoons, skunks, herons and crows that would happily dine on baby turtle tartare. In fact, she won’t nurture her babies at all or even recognize them if she happens to run into them somewhere down the road.

Turtles in general are not known as caring parents. In fact, by our standards they might be seen as downright callous. Turtles certainly don’t express tender emotions like we do. Whether they even have them or not is something only turtles know. But by carefully choosing a suitable location for her nest, the mother turtle has already given her babies every advantage that is hers to give. She doesn’t need to give more.

When the babies hatch they will already have all that they need to survive. They can dig themselves out of the dirt, avoid predators and find the safety of the water. And we are talking about snapping turtles here, remember: the young are already pretty feisty right out of the egg.

So don’t feel too bad for the “poor, abandoned” babies. Because after all, turtles have been around since before the dinosaurs — they must be doing something right!

*The black tube in the foreground of the picture is part of the counter system that keeps track of the number of visitors to the Wetlands Nature Area.

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