Snappy Turtle

I have lost count of the number of turtles I have helped cross a road.  Usually they are a variety of Missouri box turtle; Missouri is home to 18 different turtle species.

Over the years, it’s the box turtles that have hung around my garden.  Lefty Louie was a three-legged box turtle that chose to spend several seasons in my garden, stopping by the garage door whenever he wanted a strawberry.  I was thinking about Lefty Louie the morning I was walking through my garden and saw a new visitor sitting at the top of my retaining wall stairs – it was a snapper.

Starting March 1, 2018, Missouri Department of Conservation made it illegal to harvest common snapping and soft shell turtles for commercial use. They can still be harvested for personal use but the limit has been reduced from five each to a total of two. Not many harvest turtles for food anymore but they are hunted commercially for foreign market sales.

Turtles are losing ground to land conversion, draining of wetlands and channelization of rivers, which have replaced their preferred habit – swamps, marshes and meandering streams.

Here is how you can help turtles:

  • Don’t adopt or buy turtles for pets.
  • Don’t shoot turtles for sport. It’s illegal and it puts pressures on an already stressed animal group.
  • Report turtle poachers to Operation Game Thief 800-392-1111.
  • Be careful where you drive, especially in spring and summer when box turtles are mating, nesting and dispersing. If you can do so safely, stop and help a turtle cross the road. Always move the turtle in the direction it is headed.
  • Create habitat areas with wetlands and wooded, shrubby and grassy natural habitat.
This snapping turtle was found in my garden and measured about 20 inches, a young one according to my local nature friends. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

And my snappy visitor? It was moved to a large open pond about 15 miles from my house with a nearby stream.

Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a gardener, beekeeper and sometimes cook, for more visit gardeningcharlotte.com. Published by Kaleidoscope Weekly with permission. Copyright 2018, all rights reserved. This column may not be copied, published, reprinted, rewritten or redistributed. Contact Charlotte at gardeningcharlotte@gmail.com.

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