I suppose seeing a large turtle in the back yard is exciting for some people. Personally, I’ve seen a lot of them in my lifetime, which is how I immediately knew what this one was intending to do. When I was a kid, my dad caught a snapping turtle the size of Gamera that barely fit into an oil drum, and the memory of that beast snapping a tree limb in half has stuck with me all my life. Since then, I have preferred to maintain what I call a “preserving my digits and extremities”-type distance from snapping turtles.
Jason texted me a little while later. She’s still out there, he typed. I’m going to take more pictures.
This concerned me a little bit. I didn’t feel that Jason was paying this turtle the amount of respect she deserved. Please leave her be, I texted back. The worst possible time to approach a snapping turtle is when it is a female laying eggs. Guess what that is? A FEMALE. LAYING EGGS.
“The turtle’s digging holes in your flower bed,” he announced.
“Okay,” I said.
“I thought you’d be upset. She’s already dug up a half-dozen flowers,” he said, surprised.
“General rule of thumb that I like to live by: let snapping turtles do whatever they want. If she starts weaving a lei out of the flowers and inviting all the other turtles to dance the cha-cha with her, please let her.” The memory of Oil Drum Gamera still crunched in my head.
“She’s dug, like, three or four holes already,” he said.
“Okay. She’s just looking for exactly the right spot. I would advise letting her. Snapping turtles are allowed to be fussy. Also, and I can’t reiterate this enough, do NOT approach or touch her,” I said.
“Sheesh, I know already! I’m gonna go watch her,” he said, hanging up.
A short time later, I noticed that Jason had posted a video online of our snapping turtle laying her eggs in my carefully mulched flower bed. The video ended with an angry turtle charging at Jason’s phone. He did text me to assure me he still had all of his fingers and toes, so I felt a little better. Then he asked if I was okay with the fact that the flower bed was now a turtle hatchery. Baby snapping turtles, I texted back. Can’t wait.
He was off to work that afternoon, and of course, our girl hadn’t left the lawn yet. Can you please check the yard when you get home to make sure the snapping turtle didn’t get caught in the deer netting around the garden? he texted me. I read it twice and texted him back: And if she is caught in the netting . . . what, exactly, would you like me to do about it?
Nature: sometimes, it’s better to give it the healthy, hands-off respect it deserves.