Lincoln Park Zoo biologists have been tracking the movement of a snapping turtle that was released into the pond this March. In the last few months we have found this particular individual prefers a different part of the pond than most of the painted turtles at Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo, which normally like to stay around the island.
We have spotted at least two other snapping turtles in the pond, and we could potentially be seeing more in the future because hatchling snapping turtles have been sighted around Nature Boardwalk over the last few weeks.
Once a female snapping turtle has laid her eggs, it takes about 80–90 days for them to hatch. When the hatchlings break out of their eggshells and crawl out of the nest, they are only about the size of a quarter, and their shells are rather soft. In Illinois this will normally happen around late July to August.
The snapper pictured above (that’s a pen cap next to it to give you a sense of scale) was spotted earlier this week on zoo grounds, and we decided to give it a helping hand and release it at Nature Boardwalk. We expect that this individual hatched last year because it’s a little early to be seeing snapping turtle hatchlings and its size is larger than what we would expect from a newly hatched snapper. Even if it is a year old, with legs as tiny as that, it would have taken this yearling quite a while to get to the pond!
Mason Fidino is coordinator of wildlife management in the zoo's Urban Wildlife Institute.