For many of us keeping our pets safe from wildlife is pretty easy. You would think that in suburban New Jersey that my dogs don’t encounter wild animals all that often. You would be incorrect. My dogs have encountered a female snapping turtle a few times over the last two weeks.
We have a herd of deer that live in our neighborhood and sleep in the trees behind my fence. Red Hawks, owls, and even bald eagles fly high above us. Fox and coyotes run across the street looking for prey. These predators are not a threat to my big dogs, however.
Every spring I strive to save the new bunnies and baby birds from my eager dogs, Gonzo and Beau. My husband and I worked out a system. We close the deck gate until we go out and check the yard. Then the dogs are allowed outside. It’s not perfect- especially when raining or dark outside, but it has resulted in zero casualties this year.
A few weeks ago I let the dogs out without thinking and immediately regretted it. They honed in on an intruder. A large, female snapping turtle. Every year she visits from the creek behind our house, looking for a prime nesting spot. Hint: it’s not our yard. Still she tries each spring.
It was difficult but I was able to take Gonzo and Beau snarling and barking back onto the deck. But neither my dogs nor the snapping turtle were injured, I was lucky. I grabbed an umbrella and proceeded to try and deter the mama-to-be away from my yard. Because apparently the dogs were not intimidating in the least and she was feeling stubborn.
Needless to say Mama Turtle did not love my attention and she hissed and snapped at me. Boy was she heavy. But I was able to scoot her a bit with the umbrella, managing to only use the shell and not hurt her in any way. Patience is a virtue. I have no desire to hurt her, but nesting in my yard would be bad for her, my kids, and my dogs.
After some prompting she did go on her way. I didn’t see her for two weeks until today. She appeared out of the woods recently and decided to dig her nest just outside my fence. The dogs were ballistic. But it was too late- she was ready to lay her eggs.
I’m so glad I was able to catch this amazing moment. My daughters would be so disappointed to miss it, so I had to film it. They love animals. To be honest, I wanted this on video for myself as well- it’s just cool!
I immediately went and googled some information about baby snapping turtles. I not only wanted to know when they might hatch so I could try and catch it on film, but also to prevent them from becoming Scooby Snacks. Something my veterinarian also mentioned when I showed him my amazing video.
According to Google, approximately 20-40 baby turtles should be hatching in August. That is, of course assuming that the raccoons, foxes, and skunks don’t get to them first. Truthfully, the skunks were my biggest worry because I do not relish a tomato bath.
I was so excited at the prospect of baby turtles wandering around. I love all animals. Sadly, the nest was disturbed no more than a week after this video was made and Mama Turtle returned to the creek. I have no idea what predator was the culprit, but the eggs were dug up and stolen away. Not a shell to be seen. I guess I won’t be filming any hatching this summer.
Still, what an amazing lesson in nature for my children, and a rare opportunity captured on film.