Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Saving Snapping Turtles Lifts Spirits

a large moss covered snapping turtle crossing the road

Hello, fellow readers, Saving snapping turtles lifts spirits. While walking Jolee, I saw a baby snapping turtle on the side of the road and a momma snapper a week later. I hope you enjoy the story.

I walked a quarter of a mile with the quarter-sized baby snapper to a feeder stream, much less steep than over the bridge crossing Cobblewood Road. He tucked inside his shell in fear. Halfway, he grew impatient and struggled to escape my two-finger grip. “I’m trying to help you, little fellow. Be patient.”

I climbed over the ragweed and mugwort inundating our world, choking out the native asters, although I saw a few blooms peeking through. I released the baby turtle safely into a spot next to the water. A lesson in patience we all can learn from nature.

a dark grey quarter-sized baby snapping turtle in a stream next to native aster blooms The Saga of Saving a Snapping Turtle

This week, Jolee and I encountered another snapping turtle, a very large one, crossing the road. Not the same fellow one pond down that I came upon last October we spoke about in Winter Season of Growth, when a kind man stopped and flipped the turtle back into the pond with a piece of wood. That was a magical moment.

I could not bear the platter-size turtle flattened on the road. Wearing a reflector vest when walking, as folks tend to speed on our country roads, I felt safe directing traffic. A few cars carefully drove by as the turtle slumbered along so slowly. So, so slowly

Caesar with snow removal devise helping a snapping turtle to cross the road safely along with Diane McGreen.

Thank you, Caesar and Diane!

Then Diane McGreen stopped to help. Soon after, a CDL truck stopped. “Hi, Caesar,” Diane said. He delivers packages to her.

Caesar takes a snow removal brush to push the turtle to the pond side of the road; she begins to hiss and spit. Then, he flips the turtle carefully on its back. He runs to his truck to get a utility glove, puts it in the turtle’s mouth, and then carries her safely to the other side. What a hero.

“Somehow, I knew what to do,” he said, “thinking it’s the safest way of moving her to the other side.” Caesar is originally from Puerto Rico, but now he lives in Passaic and works in our area delivering packages.

He said, “I always try to save animals when I see them crossing the road.” Thank you, Caesar and Diane, for taking the time to help.

Snapping Turtles Unwarranted Reputation 

Snapping turtles can live up to 40 years or more and rarely leave their ponds or bogs other than during the breeding season or to lay eggs. Sometimes, they move if overcrowded, or their habitat becomes polluted or destroyed.

Experts recommend not handling snapping turtles. Their name is justified as their bites can be fierce. Gratefully, Caesar’s strategy worked well.

a white dog with black ear looking into a moss covered pond where the snapping turtle returned after being saved from being hit on the road.

Jolee checked to see that the snapper was back in her home.

Caesar with his thump up after saving the snapping turtle

Snapping turtles have a reputation for destroying gamefish and waterfowl. However, research finds it is very rare in natural settings.

It was fascinating to learn that once snapping turtles lay their eggs, they do not return to the nest, which is what I thought was going on—That the momma snapper was checking on the baby I found, one of the likely dozens hatched. But they don’t return to the area until the next time they lay eggs.

Turtles are Welcome Garden Guests 

While snapping turtles won’t frequent your gardens, others, like box turtles, are welcome garden guests who control insect pests and slugs. To attract them, provide plenty of leaf litter for moist hiding spots. Keep your garden debris intact over winter to provide a habitat for nesting sites for next year’s babies.

Helping Mother Nature Lifts Spirits

We are here to serve each other, nature, and our land with gratitude for the gifts they give us. And you can’t rush things—everything in its due time. Though true, we hurried the turtle to save her from being squished on the road. I like to think it was part of the plan that we came upon the situation just in time to help. I bet you would have done the same.

Garden Dilemmas,? and your favorite Podcast App.

There is more to the story in the Garden Dilemmas Podcast, including a reflection on when I saved a baby snapper soon after my brother Bill passed away and how it helped heal my heart. I hope you’ll tune in:

Related Stories and Helpful Links    

Winter Season of Growth

Turtle Island 

More about Common Snapping Turtle (from the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection)

Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

    Mary – Love the snapping turtle piece!

    Your podcasts give me hope for a broken planet!


    • Mary Stone Reply

      Thank you, Blaine. Let us never give up hope that more will be kinder to the gifts of our dear earth and all that live in it. I appreciate all that you share to help our mission, Mary

  2. Writer Pilgrim Reply

    What a joint effort! That was one big turtle! I wonder why the utility glove was in the mouth?

    • Mary Stone Reply

      Caesar likely devised the idea to keep the turtle from struggling to bite. It worked. She seemed calm. She dropped the glove and dove back into the pond when he placed her on the ground. A happy outcome. Thanks for reading my column, Mary

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