Meet our resident common snapping turtle, or as I like to call him, Igor. Why Igor? Because his slow, deliberate crawling and massive carapace remind me of those hunchbacked assistants you always see in Gothic films*. And any creature this cool deserves a better description than “common.”
Igor is a bit of a legend around here. We met him in our first few weeks of life here at the bird farm. He has a penchant for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. My husband has relocated him back to his ditch a few times, and once last summer I saw some benevolent motorists rescuing him from the highway. He’s even been relocated to a pond several miles away on numerous occasions, but he always shows back up here in due time. The irrigation ditch and pond next to our property must be the turtle equivalent to an oceanfront beach home in the Bahamas.
This is the first time we’ve seen Igor since last fall, so I’m glad to see he’s made it another winter. In captivity, common snapping turtles can live up to fifty years. I have no idea how old Igor is, or really if he’s Igor or Igoria. And I have no plans to try to find out; I enjoy having all my fingers intact.
There are two types of snapping turtles in North America – the common snapping turtle and the alligator snapping turtle. Common snapping turtles like fresh or brackish water. with muddy bottoms and lots of vegetation so that they can hide more easily. These turtles spend most of their lives in water, but will venture on land to lay eggs or search for new nesting sites. They eat plants and animals, and are both scavengers and active hunters. Snapping turtles will basically eat anything they can fit in their mouth – frogs, fish, birds and mice. Igor is bigger than a hubcap. It takes a lot of mice and frogs and bugs to get that large.
If you ever have a need to relocate a snapping turtle, proceed with caution. They have strong jaws and sharp claws. Don’t pick them up by the tail and drag them, as that can hurt their tail and scrape up their soft undercarriage. Grasp the carapace above the back legs. That will keep you out of reach of the turtle’s jaws and claws. Or better yet, use a shovel or cover the turtle with a blanket.
I hope this is just one of many Igor sightings Wyokiddo and I get to have for years to come. He’s an amazing and beautiful creature, if not in a conventional sense.
*An interesting footnote for all you film and literature aficionados…Igor is most often associated with Frankenstein, but that’s a bit of a misnomer. Mary Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein novel doesn’t have any sort of character, and the 1931 classic film Frankenstein has an assistant named Fritz. But Fritz just didn’t seem to fit this guy, so Igor it was!