Baby Turtles

2018 July 14

This set of pictures is from several different locations over a period of about a month. To start with, back on June 8, Sam and I were on our way down to Camp Nesbit for a weekend event[1], and I spotted this turtle crossing the road. Road crossing is very dangerous for turtles, so we stopped and Sam retrieved it.


This is pretty clearly a Painted Turtle, Chrysemys picta.



Most likely a female, looking for a good place to lay eggs. We probably saved her life, but she didn’t look very appreciative of the favor.


Painted turtles are pretty common in Michigan, and in fact they are the State Reptile. While the eggs are laid in early summer, they take about 70-80 days to hatch, and so this turtle’s eggs would likely not hatch until around mid-September. At this point, it is already getting a bit cold, so this far north the baby painted turtles arrange themselves in the nest, and hibernate through the winter before coming out in the spring.

Which means that this little fellow that was found in Lake Nesbit the next day would have been from the eggs laid the previous year. There were a bunch of kids at the camp event, and one of them found him in the shallows. Isn’t he cuuuute?


All the girls thought so, too.


Eventually, he was let go in the lake again. Painted turtles are extremely widespread, here is another baby painted turtle that Sam and Rosie found in the water near the Chutes, in Canada, just a couple of weeks later (June 20) and about 400 miles further East.


Of course painted turtles aren’t the only kind of turtles around. On the morning of our last day at Camp Nesbit (June 10), we happened to spot this big old snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) digging holes on the beach. She was clearly laying eggs. She actually dug several holes, not just one, and would spend about 15 minutes at each hole before going to the next one.


I got these pictures between hole-digging episodes. The big lump on one edge of her shell appears to be a snail. And on the other side, there is a big gash on her shell that has healed over. Whatever caused that wound, the shell probably saved her from getting killed, as without a shell it probably would have taken off her entire hind leg. I kind of wonder whether it was a recent injury (in which case it would have been some fairly dire incident), or an injury received when she was much smaller that just persisted as the shell grew.



Before we left, the camp rangers were told about the nests, so maybe they will be able to keep them from being stomped on by kids through the summer. In any case, the survival odds of turtle eggs are pretty poor, estimates are that around 90% of them end up getting eaten by raccoons and skunks. Which is probably just as well – a lake can support a few snapping turtles, but if all the eggs survived then they would eat every fish, frog, and tadpole pretty quickly. Snapping turtle eggs also take a long time to hatch, somewhere around 90 days, so if they avoided being eaten these would have emerged in late fall.

So, now you may ask, what do baby snapping turtles look like? Well, on July 6, 2018, my cousin was visiting us with his family, and one of his sons found this baby snapping turtle in the ditch beside the road we live on[2] Baby.snapping.turtle.cropped

[1] It was the Karate Institute Summer Games. Normally these are held somewhere down in Ohio, but this year it was in the UP, so that the KI groups in this area could attend more easily.

[2] The reason we were in the ditch in the first place, is we were all looking at how the bottom of our road washed out in the Father’s Day Flood just a few weeks previously. What happened was, late in the evening on June 16, it started raining heavily. And continued to do so, pretty much without letup, until late morning of June 17. By the time it was done, the Houghton area had received beween 6 and 7 inches of rain in less than a 12-hour period. This was quite a disaster, washing out roads all over the county, flooding houses and businesses, and in some cases washing away entire buildings. There was one fatality, and millions of dollars worth of damage. The damage tended to be extremely focused because of the way the local terrain channels water into particular areas. Most places were wet but otherwise unscathed, and a lot of people had varying degrees of basement flooding, but the spots where the water actually went were practically obliterated.

Some of that damage was the bottom quarter-mile or so of Old Mill Hill Road, the road that we live on. Where the road wasn’t cut away, the pavement was undermined and completely torn up. Well, verbal descriptions don’t fully do it justice, here are some pictures:







The road is still accessible from the other end (coming from Atlantic Mine), and there are no houses down on the washed-out portion, so this doesn’t result in anyone actually being cut off, and I think that fixing Old Mill Hill Road is extremely low on the priority list. The head of the Road Commission was just quoted in the paper as saying that some of the repairs would have to wait until spring, because there was no way they’d be finished before winter, so I expect we are going to be going around the long way for the forseeable future. The National Guard did come in and remove the wrecked pavement while smoothing out the road enough that vehicles can, slowly and carefully, drive on it. But, on Thursday (July 12), we got another inch or so of rain that washed out a lot of the fill that had been put in, reducing it back to a 4-wheel-drive-only track. I can still push my bicycle up the hill, but I personally wouldn’t drive a motor vehicle on it. I don’t really expect any repair beyond that until after the actual important roads are fixed, which is likely to be sometime late this fall (or maybe even next spring).

The big issue with this particular road is that it was built along a creek bed. And every now and then, it tries very hard to turn back into a creek. Something similar happened a few years ago (although not quite so severely). I’m starting to wonder how many times the road commission will be willing to repair it before they just throw up their hands and abandon that stretch of road altogether. They could conceivably decide that it is better just to turn the road 90 degrees, and go up to the housing development to the east to connect up with the roads there.

4 Responses
  1. Lyle R Laylin permalink
    July 14, 2018

    I was in Calumet for the storm and could see that it was much more severe in Houghton.
    2 and a half hours of continuous lightning before it got to us.

  2. Carole permalink
    July 14, 2018

    A few years ago, here in Pensacola, we had 24 inches of rain in 24 hrs. A major highway washed out that way along a bay. Took months to put it back together. Glad yours wasn’t worse.

  3. July 14, 2018

    Glad you guys are all okay (from the water as well as the snappers)!

  4. August 1, 2018

    Way cool! I’m so used to every turtle I see being protected or endangered that it’s great to see ones that are common, living full lives of self-realization and accomplishment.

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