Life is hard: Just try to be wildlifeWORTHINGTON — I can’t imagine just how hard life is for the average specimen of wildlife that lives in southwest Minnesota. or any other place on the planet for that matter.
By: Scott Rall, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — I can’t imagine just how hard life is for the average specimen of wildlife that lives in southwest Minnesota. or any other place on the planet for that matter.
Wildlife has to work incredibly hard just to survive. Humans in many parts of the world suffering from famine, drought and disease have the same uphill battle just to survive, but, for most part, in our area, the struggle for life and death is not a daily challenge.
Most human effort is to improve their lot in life and not one of sheer existence.
If you are a member of the wildlife clan, living day to day is a success story.
When I teach kids about fishing, I tell them that when a fish wakes up in the morning he has two things on his mind. The first is to find someone smaller than him to eat and in the process do his best not to get eaten by someone bigger than himself. Those are the basic facts of life for wildlife.
If you are successful in doing those two things you can then add No. 3 to the two life necessities. No. 3 is the option of trying to procreate the species, so there will others like you to carry on doing No. 1 and No. 2 I saw one such creature that was doing job No. 3.
A female snapping turtle had crawled out of the creek on the Sunday before Memorial Day and was digging a hole in my food plot in which to lay her eggs. Now an adult snapping turtle must have very few enemies, but anything really small is normally in big trouble.
Last season, we had two snappers that dug holes and laid eggs where we could see them. I wonder just how many others had done the same in a spot where human eyes could not see. We marked these areas with some flags to ensure no human drove over them or unintentionally destroyed the nest.
The two nests were right along the edge of the road that we use quite often and were only about 10 yards apart. It took only about five days for the coons to sniff out the underground stash and the eggs were completely dug up and eaten, providing the coon with something smaller than itself to eat. There was a zero success rate for these two.
Snapping turtles lay eggs and head back to the water. They lay anywhere from 25 to 80 eggs. The eggs incubate anywhere from nine to 15 weeks. I often wonder how the baby turtles know which direction the water is. It would be a long walk if they headed the wrong way.
There are two species of snapping turtles in the U.S. and they can live up to 35 years in the wild.
They are a belligerent bunch when you catch one out of water. Normally they will just scoot away if you see one on the water’s edge.
Snapping turtles have learned to snap for protection. Most other turtles just suck the fee, tail and head into the shell and wait for you to get bored and leave.
Snapping turtles’ heads are too big to be hidden in the shell and snapping is the way they have evolved to protect themselves.
They are not very picky about what they eat and both plants and animals will do. Way before the “Animal Planet’’ channel on television, there was a movie done that I saw at the old State Theater when it was in operation in downtown Worthington.
It showed stories about all kinds of animals and one was a snapping turtle. It showed the snapping turtle lying stone still on the bottom of a lake with its mouth wide open. Inside its mouth was a small appendage that wiggled like a worm. When the minnow or other small fish approached, thinking it had found something smaller than itself to eat, it was immediately chopped down on by the big turtle’s jaws. I was mesmerized.
This movie might very well have been the experience that got me immersed in the desire to learn about the outdoors. I thought that I would do what I could to tilt the survival scale in the favor of the turtles. I put a wire cage over the nest, making sure that it had a lid on it. It had to be a wire lid as the eggs need the direct sunlight to hatch. I put a weight on it and now we can wait the nine weeks to see if my efforts pay off.
The hatched turtles can crawl through the wire but the coon can’t get in. They will still need to run the gauntlet from the hatch sight to the creek and, once there, survival odds improve, but are not guaranteed.
Adult snappers will eat smaller turtles, so maybe Uncle Ed or Aunt Freida might still find the smaller morsel good enough to eat.
I have no idea what the survival rate is overall, but in my very limited history, it seems to be pretty low. I will watch to see if and when they hatch and will try to get a photo of the baby snappers. I have held one that was about two inches across and even a baby sapper is pretty cute.
Most animals are pretty cute when they are little. If you truly appreciate nature and wild things, you just might find an adult snapper doing what nature has called on her to do cute in its only little way. Take another look at that photo. Isn’t she CUTE!!
Scott Rall is the Daily Globe’s outdoors columnist. His column can also be read weekly at www.dglobe.com.
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