What can be as big as a trash can lid and use its tongue to attract fish??? A Common Snapping Turtle! This is true!

Snapping turtles start out small, smaller than a quarter. They hatch from eggs and can live up to 70 years and weigh in at over 80 lbs. Not that we have seen any that big in the lake Zurich area but when you are surprised by one they seem that big!

In our area we have had 4 species of turtle recorded. Snapping Turtle, Painted Turtle, Soft-shelled Turtle and the Blanding’s Turtle. The Blanding’s Turtle is an endangered species and species of concern that many of our local open space agencies are working hard to conserve. Since turtles spend most of their time alive in water, preserving clean water and upland oak savannas and woodlands for the females to lay eggs is why it is important to maintain the life cycle.  All four species like clean water and lots of food. Most turtles are shy of humans and will do anything to avoid contact. In the late spring when it’s nesting season the females head for choice places to lay their eggs. These secluded woodlands are important because turtle eggs are a favorite feast for many. Skunks, raccoons, snakes, crows and others love to snap up these tasty treats! 

A turtle’s travel often involves crossing a road. They have one thing on their minds and are on a time schedule. Finding a secure nesting spot where they can bury their eggs. When the eggs hatch in 4-6 weeks they young are mini versions of the adults and totally on their own. They will head back to open water…crossing the road. AGAIN!!!

What happens when the turtle is crossing the road? (Sounds like a bad joke, right!).

I encourage you to help the turtle but there are important concerns to be aware of: be sure that you are safe, signal properly, wave and let others know your plans, maybe they can help direct traffic! Be VERY careful when moving the animal! It could be injured or pack a huge bite! By the way…ALL turtles bite! Sometimes, it’s best to stand guard and let the turtle cross on its own. If the animal does need to be moved, move it to the side of the road in the same direction it was going! Sometimes, using a car mat or something that can help you slide the turtle along faster and out of harm’s way. Do not ever pick up a turtle by its tail. Their tail is part of their spine and a turtle’s spine is attached to its shell, too!  Also, their head can swivel out and bite you and the turtle could sustain permanent damage. Here is a couple of helpful YouTubes on how to safely move a turtle.

Do not take the turtle with you. They do not make good pets and are much happier in the wild.

In the last century and a half, Illinois has under gone great drastic alterations to the landscape from when the first settlers arrived in NE Illinois. Many rivers, creeks and wetlands have been drained, channeled and drastically changed. Over 90% percent of our ecosystems have been changed in Lake County. With the restored wetlands and woodlands, that Ancient Oaks Foundation works hard to protect, there is an opportunity for all of us to have a turtle sighting this summer!

Til next time!

Mary Kozub
AOF Board Member

Mary has worked for McHenry County Conservation District for 16 years and has been a “founding” member of the Village of Lake Zurich’s Tree Commission for 20 years.