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Out & About: Baby Snapping Turtles Born at Montshire Museum of Science

  • Lorenz Rutz, exhibits assistant and live animal care specialist at the Montshire Museum of Science, holds a snapping turtle egg.

  • Lorenz Rutz, exhibits assistant and live animal care specialist at the Montshire Museum of Science, holds a days-old snapping turtle.



Valley News Calendar Editor
Monday, October 15, 2018

Norwich — The snapping turtle eggs that have been incubating for months at the Montshire Museum of Science have finally hatched.

The tiny reptiles are about the size of a quarter and can be viewed by visitors at the museum. As of Monday, eight had been born.

Nearly each spring, the Montshire collects turtle eggs from an Upper Valley location where they are in danger of being harmed and incubates the batch until they hatch.

“Snappers are common,” said Lorenz Rutz, exhibits assistant and live animal care specialist at the Montshire. But what’s not as common is seeing them up close. “Snappers are not endangered. There’s no reason for us to help these guys out except that it’s fun.”

Visitors can follow the progress of the eggs from when they are incubated until they hatch, which usually takes about three months. The newly hatched turtles are then put in a tank with water and sand.

“It builds excitement,” Rutz said. “Certainly the excitement of when they hatch is fun.”

Most are kept there until the following spring or summer when they are reintroduced to their natural habitat. If all of the hatchlings cannot all fit in the tank comfortably, some are released.

In the wild, “as soon as they hatch they scurry to the water,” Rutz said.

Often, the eggs — which are about the size of a ping pong ball — don’t make it to the hatchling stage because they are food for predators including raccoons.

This year, not as many eggs hatched due to a heater malfunction. “If the heat is right, every egg should be viable,” Rutz said.

After they are a few days old, Rutz begins feeding them worms. As they grow, the water level of the tank gets raised.

“There’s actually a drowning risk,” he said. If the water levels are too high, it can be difficult for the youngsters to stay afloat to breath.

“In the wild now, they’d be heading for a muddy place to overwinter,” Rutz said. “In some way we’re improving their odds by doing this.”

While the tiny turtles are cute, they are not meant to be companions to humans.

“It’s not a pet, it’s a wild thing,” Rutz said. Snapping turtles live up to their name and will not hesitate to bite if they feel threatened. “There’s no charm in a snapping turtle.”

Once the turtles grow to adults, they have very few risks from other predators. Humans may encounter them trying to cross the road and want to help, but Rutz cautions good Samaritans to be careful: Snapping turtles have long necks and powerful jaws.

Right now, the snapping turtles at the exhibit are quite a ways a way from crossing roads and they’re a joy to watch.

“It’s fun to let people see how it happens,” Rutz said.

Editor’s note: For more information about visiting the Montshire, visit montshire.org. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.

Correction

Snapping turtles have long necks, pow erful jaws and sharp beaks that are capable of harming humans. They do not have teeth. An earlier version of this column incorrectly paraphrased a specialist at the Montshire Museum of Science on that point.