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Reptiles/Baby snapping turtle

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Question
I found a baby snapping turtle in my pool skimmer today.  I am a single mother of a 4 year old and a 2 year old and am concerned about their safety with being outside; especially now knowing that snapping turtles are in the area.  The little turtle escaped but I'm sure he will be back.  What should I do with him if I catch him again?  He's only about 4-6 inches long.  Should I relocate him with a shovel?  I have no desire to keep it as a pet, but like I said, I don't want my kids to confuse a non-biting turtle with this little guy and get hurt.

Answer
Snapping turtles can occasionally be defensive, if they're caught on land - but only if molested.  They can deliver a painful bite, but aren't truly dangerous.  The mother turtle came up onto land, laid her eggs in a nest underground, and then returned to the water.  Snapping turtles rarely come out of the water.  (Unless your kids are wading in large ponds, they're unlikely to step on one, and turtles flee human presence).

After 2 months in the nest, the eggs hatched, and the baby turtles made their way to the surface.  They then began walking, to find the closest body of water.  At four inches, the turtle in your pool skimmer is probably at least a year old, possibly more.  He may have been looking for a new place to live, traveling from one pond to another when his became overcrowded, dried up, or was disturbed in some other way.  Just let him go in the nearest pond if he shows up again (which is very unlikely).

All turtles can bite, by the way, and any bite from a turtle is likely to hurt!  They all have sharp beaks.  A bite from a 4 inch snapper may hurt even more, but it won't be truly dangerous.  Adult snappers can do some damage, of course, but not quite as much as the folklore suggests they can.  Try to ensure the kids understand that they shouldn't touch or pick up wild animals - of course with a 2 year old, the message may not get through, but to alleviate your concerns - if they do learn the hard way, it will just require some soap and water and a band aid.

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Donna Fernstrom

Expertise

My particular focus is on snakes and lizards, but I have a decent smattering of knowledge of turtles and crocodilians as well, plus the experience to get relevant information quickly if I don't have it on hand in my brain. I can answer questions on captive care, diet, breeding, incubation of eggs, starting hatchlings, and more. I am particularly experienced with ball pythons, Lygodactylus geckos and other small lizards with similar care requirements, leopard geckos, and garter snakes.

Experience

I am a professional breeder of ball python morphs, Lygodactylus (dwarf) geckos, and mourning geckos. I have begun working with Irian Jaya carpet pythons, and plan to expand to include more gecko species in the future. I also have a background breeding leopard geckos, and have kept several other species of small lizards, snakes, and a water turtle.

Organizations
Nebraska Herpetological Society (nebherp.org)

Publications
I have many care sheets published on my own website.

Education/Credentials
High School Graduate. Extensively self-taught due to high interest in wildlife and reptile care.

Awards and Honors
Fauna Classifieds board of inquiry Good Guy Certification

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