A large garden invites a variety of wild guests, from crows to raccoons and butterflies, but my husband Phil and I were unprepared for one particular visitor.
Early on a June morning in 2001, Phil went out for a tour of the garden behind our home in Milton, MA. After a few minutes, I heard him whisper to me from below the kitchen window, "Could you come out here for a minute? We have an interesting animal in the garden, and it’s still here."
|The snapping turtle in our garden laying eggs.
An impressive snapper some 18 inches long lay in our asparagus bed. Her rear end was partially immersed in the soil, though her eyes--and knuckle-sized neck--were all too evident. Having read somewhere that snappers can move quite quickly when disturbed, even when out of water, I wasn't particularly happy when Phil knelt three feet from the critter for a better look.
After a while we left, but came back about a half hour later to find the turtle slowly moving her rear legs back and forth. Four tiny "golf balls" about an inch in diameter tumbled behind her! They were followed by a few more. The turtle eventually covered her eggs with soil, and began to leave. "That's all the mothering those babies will ever get," said Phil, who knows a little turtle biology.
|Phil and Mama Snapper
Later that day Phil learned from an Internet search that the turtle's eggs would hatch in about 75 days. I called Mass Audubon headquarters in Lincoln, MA, and got even more information from Linda Cocca, their Natural History Information Coordinator at the time.
|Mama snapper heading back to the stream.
In sum, Phil and I proudly tell friends who inquire about the garden that the crops we’ve grown include corn, tomatoes, cukes…and turtles.
|A baby snapper and Phil.
|Putting the baby snapper at the side of a stream.