What a wildlife filled couple of days!
Yesterday I was summoned to a neighbor's house, to see what I could do about a snapping turtle in their garden.
Sure enough, it was a big beautiful Chelydra serpentina.
I would estimate the shell length was about 12", and the tail was at least another 6". It had a bad right eye, mostly closed up, though I could not observe any damage.
Now, removing it from the garden, where it had become trapped, was the issue. Don't want a big snapper around kids and pets.
I remembered from my reptile field guide (and a question on my herpetology final exam) that you can lift a snapping turtle safely by the tail. Their tails are very thick and sturdy, and having never handled a snapper before, I thought I'd try it out. I picked it up without much protest (though a few snaps into the air were rather alarming), and carried it into the woods to a stream (which it could follow to a pond).
Now, after some more reading, I've discovered (as I had suspected) that it is actually not a good idea to pick up a snapping turtle this way - it can damage the tail or spine. The best method is to grasp the back end of the shell, if you can get a good enough grip. You can also grasp the front edge of the shell above the head, with your other hand holding the back end. This seems to be the most appropriate way to hold them, but it's a little intimidating!
Like this... (original photo found here)
So if the turtle returns and needs to be removed, I might try picking it up that way, if the turtle seems calm enough. Now I know better (and I think that field guide section on collection techniques should be changed). Though I might also just do a tail lift into a bucket to carry it!
I was also curious about the sex, but did not feel like poking around too long and further annoying the turtle, especially without being sure what I should look for. I did have my neighbor get a photo of the underside of the turtle, though, while I was holding it. I can see the cloacal opening is rather close to the base of the tail. According to the diagrams in this study, that would make her a female.
Have you ever encountered a snapping turtle? Did you try to handle it? Chase it away? What techniques did or didn't work? I won't always be available when a snapper visits one of our neighbors, and want to brainstorm some other techniques for shooing a large angry turtle into the woods.