“Baby snapping turtles!” Mike shouted. There they were: in the grass, on the street, along the curb, eight spiky-backed, sharp-beaked, no-bigger-than-a-quarter critters risking their lives to reach the pond.
On that afternoon in early September, we were on our daily after-supper family walk with my sister’s family. The four kids came running back because they had dashed ahead of us sauntering adults. They slowed and crouched, peering into the grass to see the dirt-encrusted, newly-hatched snapping turtles. The turtles looked like fierce gargoyles, but being so tiny they were undeniably adorable. The kids cooed and smiled.
Each child carefully picked up turtles by the rounded edge of their shells and gently carried them in their hands across the street in my neighborhood. Over the years we’ve seen many flattened turtles on the road. We don’t live on a busy street, but there’s no way anyone driving a car would spot these little creatures. The kids set the turtles down in the grass facing the pond, their ultimate destination until it was their turn to trundle up the hill, across the road and dig a nest less than five feet from my neighbor’s front door.
Have you seen a turtle digging in the soil, preparing to lay her eggs? Approach quietly, don’t get too close and shhhh. She’s working. Her back feet alternate pushing the soil out and away. Slowly, steadily she clears the cool dirt. She’s in no hurry, she has nowhere else to be at this moment. When the hole is deep enough, she lays her eggs in the nest. This can take some time. If you’re still there, if you haven’t had to take a phone call or make dinner, you’ll see the mother turtle push the dirt over the eggs, covering and protecting them. She leaves and so should you. Grass will grow over the area and no one will know about the little incubating eggs. Except you because you stayed and paid attention.