snapping turtle
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Snapping Turtle Tied to a Tree

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The job

I was working occasionally for a friend of mine who did wildlife relocation. He called me one day and said that he had gotten an emergency call. He was way out in Howard County and I was much closer.

The manager of an apartment complex in Baltimore County had gotten a report of a “decent-sized” snapping turtle tied to a tree in front of an apartment. The office manager wanted the turtle removed from the premises.

I grabbed a big dog crate and threw it in the back of my station wagon – and off I went. It was a 15 minute drive. I got very turned around when I was looking for the apartment building because it didn’t face the front of the road. It was positioned awkwardly and faced a small stream that ran behind the apartment complex.

Due to the time of year, I figured that the snapping turtle was probably a female. She had climbed up out of the little creek to lay eggs. When the occupants of the apartment saw the turtle looking for a good egg-laying spot they had somehow tried to tie up the turtle. Not a good idea! No matter where you might think of tying a “leash” to a turtle, it could seriously injure the animal.

The apartment complex

It looked to me like the turtle had escaped its noose and was simply lying on top of the leash. It was attached to a small tree. The door to the apartment was open, but the screen door was shut. I knew this was going to be tricky and I really was not in the mood to be confronted by the occupants of the apartment.

I stood there with my crate, trying to figure out how I was going to grab the turtle. It needed to be put in the crate and to not be seen while the apartment dwellers’ door sat wide open. I may be known for a lot of things; being light on my feet is not one of them!

The turtle hurdle

Grabbing a snapping turtle is not something to be done without thought and consideration. This particular animal was about the size of a dinner plate and had decent jaw power. A snapping turtle this size could easily bite off a finger, which is probably why the office manager didn’t want it tied to a tree!

In order to pick up a snapping turtle safely, you need to lift it by the back end. They have really long necks to go with the powerful jaws. If you put your hands on the sides of the turtle, like you would pick up most turtles, the long neck can easily reach around and the turtle will bite you. 

I tried to be as stealthy and quick as I could be, while also being as careful as possible. I gently lifted up the big girl, pushed her into the crate, snapped it shut and practically took off running. It was not a pretty sight. It looked more like waddling than running. What a sight! I was clumping along to the car with a medium-sized dog crate with a 15 pound turtle held off to my side.

The confrontation

Just when I thought I was home free – about 10 feet from my vehicle – I heard someone yelling to me. I turned and it was the person from the apartment. Damn! I was caught red-handed.

“Hey! That’s my son’s turtle!” a man yelled to me.

I told him I was hired by the apartment complex to remove it. I didn’t know anything about who owned what. And I scolded the guy for trying to put a leash on a turtle.

The guy was still running toward me as I quickly opened the back of my station wagon and inserted one turtle.

“Who told you to take the turtle?” The man angrily asked again.

“The manager of the apartments.” I answered

“Is that where you are going?” He asked.

I thought about it for a second. Why would I take a snapping turtle to the office? I wouldn’t.

“Yes. I’m taking it to the office.” I lied.

“I’ll meet you there.” Said the man.

“Okay.” Not if I see you first! I hopped in the car and took off. I had no idea where the office was in the apartment complex. My heart was racing as I pulled out of the complex and into traffic. I kept looking in my rear view mirror expecting that guy to be following me. I didn’t feel safe until I was back on the highway. And then I spent a lot of time checking the rear view mirror, not that I had any idea what kind of car that person drove. 

The release

I took the turtle to a park near where I live and released her. She seemed a little confused as she took in the sights of her new home. I knew there were snapping turtles at this park so it was a nice place to let her go. 

I was still a nervous wreck as I left the park and went home. Snapping turtles will always remind me of that day!

The guy I worked for got a huge kick out of my story. He couldn’t believe that I stole the turtle right out from under them. Poor thing, she just wanted to lay her eggs in peace. Hopefully, she is still enjoying her new digs along the banks of the Jones Falls.

Please leave your comments below. 

Read more by Holli Friedland.

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  1. Holli, I LOVE this story. It’s so touching. I hate when people are not sensitive to the needs of animals. My favorite part however, might be the heading”Turtle Hurdle.” Thx. for sharing. I know I posted something earlier, but I was just rereading some of our stuff and had to make another comment!