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PA Press: Snapping Turtles Hit the Roads


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Posted by W von Papinešu on April 16, 2003 at 16:05:16:

INDIANA GAZETTE (Indiana, Pennsylvania) 15 April 03 Snapping Turtles Hit the Roads (Bob Sleigh)
The snapping turtle is the largest species of turtle found in Pennsylvania, reaching a maximum shell length of approximately 20 inches its shell is often covered by mud or a thick layer of algae.
The head of a snapping turtle is large with extremely powerful jaws for capturing and killing prey. Snapping turtles also possess large, powerful limbs with pronounced claws and a tail that is approximately the same length as its shell.
In Pennsylvania, adult snapping turtles are distinct and aren't likely to be confused with any other species, although hatchlings and juveniles may be confused with wood turtles or stinkpot turtles.
The proliferous turtles can be found in a wide variety of aquatic habitats throughout the state. They are found in habitats ranging from relatively small streams to large rivers, temporary pools to the Great Lakes, and all sorts of marshes and swamps. They are most commonly found in shallow bodies of water with soft bottoms and abundant cover.
Snapping turtles are one of our most aquatic species, spending a great deal of time lying on the bottom, usually waiting for prey to happen by. They can also be seen floating just below the water's surface, with their eyes and nose out of the water. Even though snappers are highly aquatic, they can be found far from water, especially during the nesting season. As a result of this, dead snapping turtles are not an uncommon sight along roadsides. Unfortunately, road mortality is having a greater and greater impact on most species of turtle within the state.
Snapping turtles become active in the spring with their peak activity period being June and July, most enter hibernation around late October. Snappers seek shallow muddy areas in bays and streams for hibernation, and several hibernating turtles can usually be found in a relatively small area.
The omnivorous reptiles are known to eat various aquatic plants, insects, mollusks, crayfish, earthworms, freshwater sponges, amphibians, other reptiles, birds, and mammals. On occasion, they will also feed upon carrion.
Females normally emerge from the water to lay their eggs in May and June. Eggs are generally laid in sandy or loamy soil, and clutch size ranges from 6 to 104, with an average around 30 or 40 eggs. Eggs normally hatch in late August to mid-October.
Snapping turtles are found throughout Pennsylvania and are present in southern Canada (southern Alberta to Nova Scotia), the eastern two-thirds of the United States, and southward to parts of Ecuador.
Snapping turtles are commonly trapped for sport and food. Studies have shown, however, that populations cannot sustain increased adult mortality for any prolonged period of time. Additionally, snapping turtles have been shown to contain high levels of PCBs and other hazardous chemicals. This makes them undesirable as a food product. It also calls attention to the level of pollution present in our waterways.
Information provided by the Pennsylvania Herpetological Atlas Project located at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.



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