“Baby snapping turtles!” Mike shouts to the kids.
In the grass, on the street, along the curb: eight spiky-backed, sharp-beaked, no-bigger-than-a-quarter critters risking their lives to reach the pond.
On that day in early September, my husband Mike, our two kids and I are on our daily after-supper walk with my sister, her husband and her two kids. The kids run back to us. They slow, crouch, and peer into the grass to see the dirt-encrusted, newly-hatched snappers. The turtles are fierce gargoyles, but being so tiny, they are also undeniably adorable. The kids coo and smile.
They pick up each turtle, one by one, by the rounded edge of their shells and gently carry them in their hands across the street in my neighborhood. This isn’t their first time as turtle transport. We’ve seen many flattened turtles on the road, and while we don’t live on a busy street, there’s no way anyone driving would spot these small creatures, so we help when we can. The kids set the turtles in the grass facing the pond, their ultimate destination until it is their turn to trundle up the hill, across the road and dig a nest less than five feet from my neighbor’s front door.
Have you seen a turtle digging in the soil, preparing to lay her eggs? Approach quietly, don’t get too close and shhh. She’s working. Her back feet alternate pushing the soil out and away. Slowly, steadily she clears the cool dirt. She’s in no hurry, she has nowhere else to be at this moment. When the hole is deep enough, she lays her eggs in the nest. This can take some time. If you’re still there, if you haven’t had to take a phone call or make dinner, you’ll see the mother turtle push the dirt over the eggs, covering and protecting them. She leaves, and so should you. Grass will grow over the area, and no one will know about the little incubating eggs. Except you.
Nature nearby is a monthly column by Eden Prairie resident Amber D. Stoner.
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