My Dogs Unexpected Encounter with a Snapping Turtle

For many of us keeping our pets safe from wildlife is pretty easy. You would think that in suburban New Jersey that my dogs don’t encounter wild animals all that often. You would be incorrect. My dogs have encountered a female snapping turtle a few times over the last two weeks.

 

We have a herd of deer that live in our neighborhood and sleep in the trees behind my fence. Red Hawks, owls, and even bald eagles fly high above us. Fox and coyotes run across the street looking for prey. These predators are not a threat to my big dogs, however. 

 

Every spring I strive to save the new bunnies and baby birds from my eager dogs, Gonzo and Beau. My husband and I worked out a system. We close the deck gate until we go out and check the yard. Then the dogs are allowed outside. It’s not perfect- especially when raining or dark outside, but it has resulted in zero casualties this year.

 

A few weeks ago I let the dogs out without thinking and immediately regretted it. They honed in on an intruder. A large, female snapping turtle. Every year she visits from the creek behind our house, looking for a prime nesting spot. Hint: it’s not our yard. Still she tries each spring.

 

Snapping turtle female

 

It was difficult but I was able to take Gonzo and Beau snarling and barking back onto the deck. But neither my dogs nor the snapping turtle were injured, I was lucky. I grabbed an umbrella and proceeded to try and deter the mama-to-be away from my yard. Because apparently the dogs were not intimidating in the least and she was feeling stubborn.

 

Needless to say Mama Turtle did not love my attention and she hissed and snapped at me. Boy was she heavy. But I was able to scoot her a bit with the umbrella, managing to only use the shell and not hurt her in any way. Patience is a virtue. I have no desire to hurt her, but nesting in my yard would be bad for her, my kids, and my dogs.

 

 

After some prompting she did go on her way. I didn’t see her for two weeks until today. She appeared out of the woods recently and decided to dig her nest just outside my fence. The dogs were ballistic. But it was too late- she was ready to lay her eggs.

 

 

I’m so glad I was able to catch this amazing moment. My daughters would be so disappointed to miss it, so I had to film it. They love animals. To be honest, I wanted this on video for myself as well- it’s just cool! 

 

I immediately went and googled some information about baby snapping turtles. I not only wanted to know when they might hatch so I could try and catch it on film, but also to prevent them from becoming Scooby Snacks. Something my veterinarian also mentioned when I showed him my amazing video.

 

According to Google, approximately 20-40 baby turtles should be hatching in August. That is, of course assuming that the raccoons, foxes, and skunks don’t get to them first. Truthfully, the skunks were my biggest worry because I do not relish a tomato bath. 

 

I was so excited at the prospect of baby turtles wandering around. I love all animals. Sadly, the nest was disturbed no more than a week after this video was made and Mama Turtle returned to the creek. I have no idea what predator was the culprit, but the eggs were dug up and stolen away. Not a shell to be seen. I guess I won’t be filming any hatching this summer.

 

 

Still, what an amazing lesson in nature for my children, and a rare opportunity captured on film.

 

Have your pets had an unexpected encounter with wildlife? 

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38 thoughts on “My Dogs Unexpected Encounter with a Snapping Turtle

  1. What an exciting story! Its great when things like this happen to an animal lover like yourself and its a good reminder to those of us even in cities to check for rabbit nests etc. Shame we wont get a follow up video of the hatching but nature will run its course.

  2. OMD that video was amazing!

    1. Thanks for checking it out!

  3. That is a stubborn Mama! That video is amazing! You guys have such an awesome view of wildlife!

    1. Thank you so much! It’s helpful I always seem to have my phone on me to catch these opportunities. I love having woods in my backyard!

  4. A snapping turtle is definitely a cause for concern with dogs and kids! We have foxes, raccoons, skunks, and deer in my yard. Every day can be a little exciting!

  5. WOW, what an amazing video of the turtle laying her eggs! It’s so awesome that you captured that Heather. I’m so upset the eggs were stolen, that’s so sad. As kids we once caught a box turtle in the woods next to our house & days later we got to see her lay eggs in the tank we put her in outside! Somehow both the turtle & the eggs disappeared shortly afterwards, we never found out what happened. I used to catch snapping turtles in the lake there as well. My idiot older brother taught me how to catch them, by the tail – dumb kids, catching snappers that could bite our little fingers off!! I was bitten by a turtle once but it was a Boxer – man it hurt like he**! Thanks for sharing this wonderful blog post I loved it!
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    1. I love your story except for the part about you getting hurt. That is so cool you got to see a box turtle lay eggs. My guess is that a bird of prey or a raccoon got to her. I always wanted a pet turtle but my mother never allowed it.

  6. Very cool! She must view that spot has a safe haven since she’s visited before. Maybe she senses you will help her babies when they hatch. Hope you can capture video of them hatching when the time comes.

    1. Such a nice thing to say! I would absolutely have tried to help the babies if given the chance. She has definitely been here before- apparently the previous owners have seen her every summer as well. It must be a habit.

  7. That sure is an unexpected encounter! I bet Simba would’ve been barking his head off LOL. It’s awesome you got to capture it on video, but sad about the eggs getting stolen 🙁 Great tips!

    1. Thanks miss! I’m glad Simba didn’t encounter her, she was huge!

  8. Wow! That is a cool experience. I hope that things go well for momma turtle and her babies. It will be awesome if you are able to catch an photos of the babies when they hatch! We have some pretty crazy wild animals moving in our area (just outside of Detroit) , but since they are coyotes and cougars, I don’t imagine I will have any cute videos to share.

    1. I was hoping to get photos of the turtles hatching as well. Sadly, a predator got to the nest and there will be no baby turtles this year.

  9. How wonderful to capture the snapping turtle laying eggs. A little sad the nest was disturbed, but I guess that is what happens in nature.

    1. I can’t believe how lucky my timing was! Sad, but with so much wildlife here it was not unexpected.

  10. Oh my goodness, what an amazing video. I got teary when I read, after all momma turtles efforts, her babies are gone… I also love how you protect the local wildlife!

    1. Thank you! I was really disappointed the nest was plundered also.

  11. WOW what an amazing chance to see that although as you say someone got to them before they were hatched. I love this kind of education for kids as it opens their eyes to what is happening in nature all the time. Thanks for sharing

    1. My too! The kids were very excited to see all this and couldn’t wait to tell their friends.

  12. Oh, man! How scary. Good thing everyone was OK and got back in safely. Snapping turtles are big with a very sharp mouth. Whew

    1. It was a good lesson on checking the yard first before letting the dogs out. I have been doing it because I need to chase the baby rabbits away so my dogs won’t get them. Mama definitely snapped at me, which was cool, and because I was prepared.

  13. Those turtles are huge!!!
    Living in Florida we get a lot of weird wildlife, and so we’ve always had to work on “leave it”. LOL

    1. “Leave it” is my favorite! I use it often. LOL. You have snappers in FLA too but I’d certainly be more worried about the gators. My parents have them in NC and their dog is always on the look out.

  14. Wow! What an amazing thing to be able to see right in your back yard. Poor Mama Turtle… I feel bad she lost her babies.

    1. Me too, sadly most turtle nests don’t make it. There is always next year for her I hope (and not in my yard!)

  15. Mr. N is tiny so a lot of the wildlife we see does want to eat him! I’ve seen several birds of prey circling above us.

    1. I can imagine! Mr. N is just too tasty for his own good. We had a golden eagle circle Gonzo and I on a walk when he was a pup before the hunter decided I was too big to take on. Thankfully.

  16. This is crazy but so interesting! Does the chicken wire do a good job of keeping the outside wildlife out? I know it has to be tended to often.

    1. She BIT through the chicken wire! Crazy little mama turtle. Generally it keeps the coyotes and foxes away, but rabbits, chipmunks, and others do find their way in. It’s mostly to keep my dogs from leaving the boundary though.

  17. Glad to see you have a loving respect for the turtle as well as your sweet dogs! Another turtle nest AVERTED…haha

    1. I have great respect for all animals, it’s true even if I don’t want them in my back yard. 🙂

  18. Oh my goodness, this is so great! When I was a kid, my brother discovered where baby painted turtles were hatching. He brought home about 30 of the tiny quarter-size turtles, and sold them as pets to neighborhood kiddoes. He said it was amazing, the grass moved in waves as the hatchlings trundled through the vegetation on their way to the river. Sorry the predator got the eggs here.

    1. That’s so cool! I was hoping to see them hatch, but survivor of the fittest and all, I guess. Your brother sounds like quite the entrepreneur!

  19. Wow I can’t believe a snapping turtle was right in your back yard (practically). Great points about keeping your pets and children safe! Love that you were able to capture all that footage on video. Crazy.

    1. I know, I can’t believe I was lucky enough to video this (and keep her on the other side of the fence). Good timing!

  20. LOL, never a dull moment at Bridle and Bone Wellness. Great tips and a fun story to follow. Good job addressing the multiple animal needs!

    1. Always something going on here in New Jersey! Thanks love!

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