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Snapping Turtle Conservation--June 15, 2023

Everything fell into the right place on June 15th when a Snapping Turtle was seen digging a nest in the park early this morning. A regular park visitor contacted me, I contacted my Friends of Sam Smith Park colleague Terry Smith, and we met at the spot in time to see the big snapper laying eggs 2 at a time. She'd gently tamp them into place, shift, and lay 2 more, every couple of minutes. We estimate close to 40 eggs were laid. Duncan (on the far right in first pic) made the egg cages to specs and donated them to the Friends of Sam Smith Park. Terry staked the cage down to protect the eggs from raids by raccoons, skunks and dogs. Note the side "doors" for the baby turtles to escape once they hatch. Their mother trusts the warm sun to incubate the eggs until they hatch--her motherly duties have now ended. Our Big Mama Snapper took her sweet time laying, then carefully scooped the muddy earth over the soft-shelled eggs with her hind legs and eventually she made her regal way back down into the wetland. We were surprised and pleased to have the stakes and caution tape gifted as an impromptu protection against mowers on the spot! It was amazing how everyone came together today; we were even able to educate passers-by--even a gym class. And we want YOU to be a Baby Snapping Turtle Guardian!! Join us and keep watch over the nest in August through October. The newly-hatched turtles will make their way to the nearby water. They will be incredibly vulnerable during this journey. DO NOT pick them up or carry them to the water; please immediately contact Nancy Barrett, Terry Smith, or Irene Cholewka (all admins) on Messenger if you see evidence of hatching.

Snapping Turtles are a Species of Special Concern and a Species at Risk. Predation of eggs and young is high. They can live 70 years but become sexually mature at a late age, so we can't afford to lose any adults like our Big Mama. Yayyy Team Turtle !!

UPDATE by Terry Smith: There are now four Snapping Turtle nest protectors in the park that were built and installed by Friends of Sam Smith Park. They were all placed within an hour or so after the female was observed building the nest and depositing eggs in them. They are clearly labelled and will be monitored by FOSS volunteers over the summer. Hopefully, the nests will stay safe and remain viable until the hatchlings emerge late August or early September. We will not be putting any more protectors in the park even if more sightings are reported to us. Some predation is natural, normal and to be expected. It is nature’s way of keeping populations in check. We do not want to interfere with the wetland pond’s ability to sustain a population of turtles that might get too large for its carrying capacity. The pond clearly has a relatively healthy number already. Hopefully, we have found a good balance between giving an endangered species a helping hand and not affecting a natural, but, of course, somewhat managed, system too much. Thanks for the great interest expressed by all of you. This is the first year we have done this and we look forward to exciting results later this summer. We know that there will be a lot of watchful eyes from all you” guardians" out there to keep them safe.

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