Friday, January 21, 2005

Friday Night Turtle Blogging

I took these sometime in July or August of 2004, while on the farm. My cousin's employee had scooped up this alligator snapping turtle in the bucket of a trackhoe just before quitting time, and was displayed as a curiosity until the next day, when I believe the people who owned the land released him into a muddy slough.

A real monster, I managed to measure his length from nose to back of shell as nearly two feet. I wasn't Jim Fowler enough to wrestle him out of the mud to make a better measurement including tail.

Who needs Jurassic Park when these things are still around?

A few weeks earlier, while disking a field to be planted with soybeans, I caught a smaller specimen which had wandered out into the open. It was probably two-thirds the size of the one in the pictures, and, I'd guess, weighed about forty pounds. I did get "Jim Fowler" with it, kept it for a day so that my cousin's children could marvel at it, and the next day my cousins and I turned it in to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, who told us that it would go to a nature center in Jonesboro which often took various creatures to elementary schools as living exhibits. So, I felt good about that. (I'll post a pic of it as soon as I can find it.)

These things are threatened, and it's a shame.

They are foul tempered and incredibly strong; they can bite off several fingers if your hand is in range, and inflict a nasty wound. Like an alligator, they dont let go easily, and it's morbidly fascinating to watch them sever thick sticks at a single snap.

The turtle in the picture had evidently been injured by some heavy equipment before (notice the irregularities on top of the shell), but when in pristine condition, resemble something truly prehistoric. Their eyes are encircled with spikes, which also ring their necks in several rows, and their shells extrude heavy spikes from from to rear, which then continue all the way down their relatively long tail. Awesome. Like a degraded ankylosaurus, in a way.

*Revised for clarity.