TRR photo by Ed Wesely
Driving home on May 2, I spotted this foot-long snapping turtle stalled near a road. Its tail, which extends another few inches, has sawtooth projections on top which mimic certain dinosaurs. (click for larger image)

Itinerant snapper (May 2). When I photographed the snapping turtle (after its near encounter with my car), it seemed wary but heedless of the perils posed by Sunday traffic. I needed to move it, keeping in mind the wise advice of reptile and amphibian rehabilitators – to replace it in a familiar milieu, and to release it in the direction it was heading.

“Rescuing” an endangered turtle by carting it to an unfamiliar creek or woodland often inflicts harmful stress, and may imperil it as an unwanted and vulnerable intruder.

But I had a problem with the snapper. Resting parallel to the road, was it headed toward the Delaware River, down below, or toward a large pond across the road? Or was it seeking suitable soils in which to deposit up to 80 round, leathery eggs?

Mindful that the Delaware harbors turtles in quiet backwaters, and that spring weather sends them abroad, I finally secured the snapper by its tail and keeping a gaping mouth at arm’s length, set it afloat on the pond – where it had easy egress if I’d guessed wrong about its intention.

Later, I learned from local rehabilitator Kathy Michelle that it’s “a little early for turtles to be laying eggs,” but that many species are “moving around at random,” often in search of food.

A snapper's food can be up to 80% vegetable matter. They also relish dead shad and other carrion, and will take live ducklings, especially from skeins of merganser ducklings that frequent the river in late spring.

Let’s respect these and other itinerant creatures by driving gently on rural roads this time of year.

TRR photo by Ed Wesely
American Shad (click for larger image)

American shad. The annual run of shad to spawning grounds in the Upper Delaware River is both a challenge and ritual for local fishermen. But cool river temperatures this spring have slowed the shad, and caused fisheries biologists to predict a later run, or maybe a smaller one than in 2003.

Electronic counters on bridge piers near Lambertville, New Jersey recorded the passage of 417,00 shad in 2001, but just 296,600 in 2003.


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