What are all of these people looking at?

Something interesting down there?
Something interesting down there?

Why, it’s a tiny snapping turtle!

This tiny snapper is headed for the water for the first swim of its life.
This tiny snapper is headed for the water for the first swim of its life.

Just minutes earlier the little snapping turtle was spotted crossing the macadam that makes up the path through Explore the Wild. With mud still caked onto its shell and body from the dig out of its underground nest, the turtle wasted no time hustling around the giant feet of Museum guests and across the pavement for what would be its first dip into the Wetlands’ muddy waters.

This little turtle is on a mission (4/4/14).
This little turtle is on a mission (4/4/14).

Our little herp was deposited as one of perhaps 20 – 40 eggs in a nest dug out by its mother sometime last summer. Hatching some 70 – 90 days later, it overwintered in the nest to dig itself out this past Friday and make its way to the water, to the delight of the many passersby here at the Museum on that fine warm day.

Later the same day, what could very well have been the turtle’s mother and father were seen attempting to create a new batch of snapping turtles just 40 feet or so from where our little friend took its first swim.

Are these the snapping turtle's parents?
Are these the juvenile snapping turtle’s parents?

As you probably know, turtles lay their eggs and depart. They leave the eggs and young that may eventually hatch from those eggs to fend for themselves. There’s at least three large snappers in our Wetland. At least one of those is a male. Males are more sedentary than females, they don’t wander from pond to pond as much as females. There’s a good chance that the male in the photo is the father of our little juvenile. I wouldn’t be quite as confident about who the mother was.

In any regard, the parents and young never actually know one another. The two adult snappers in the photo may look upon their offspring as prey. These adult snappers could potentially eat our young adventurer.

I wonder, though, if there is some sort of chemical released by the young turtles, a chemical that can only be recognized by one of their parents, that says, “Hey, don’t eat me, I’m one of yours.” Probably not. Just thinking out loud.

The cycle continues.

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