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Snapping turtles are dangerous

May 20, 2009
Morning Journal News


I am writing as a concerned citizen of the city of East Palestine about the six snapping turtles which have been carelessly released into the public pond at the City Park by city Councilman John Herbert. While snappers can surely be found in this environment naturally, to willfully release a group of them into a busy park is indisputably irresponsible.

Mr. Herbert's intentions were to release the turtles for the purpose of killing ducks and geese which reside at the pond. Unfortunately, not only was his act reckless, it was also misguided, due to the fact that snapping turtles eat carrion (dead animals) and their reputation for killing baby ducks could only come from an over abundance or a number of sick baby ducks; in that case they would only kill them when the snappers' other food resources are depleted.

As for those other food sources, snappers will eat nearly anything they can get their jaws around, including invertebrates, fish, frogs and a surprisingly large amount of aquatic vegetation.

The ill-tempered snapping turtle gets its name from its powerful jaws. They are very aggressive and should be considered dangerous.

The snapping turtle can grow to a very large size very quickly. In fact, the common snapper is the largest turtle in Ohio. The carapace length of common snappers frequently exceeds one foot, with a record of 18.5 inches. The average adult weight is 30 pounds, but 40-60 pounders are not uncommon. Their life span is on average 30-40 years. It's shell is dark brown, sometimes black, rough and usually covered in algae.

The snapping turtle can be found in waters ranging from slow moving rivers to stagnate ponds. In reality it is very shy in the water and will retreat from anything except lunch. On land, however, when it feels threatened it will live up to its reputation by snapping and hissing while standing on all fours and rocking back and forth. Snappers frequently leave the water to bask in the sun on the banks of ponds or rivers.

Breeding begins in April and runs through November. The secretive reptile lays an average of 25-50 eggs.

The residents of East Palestine, especially those who enjoy taking their children to the park to spend time near the pond feeding ducks or fishing, should be very cautious and concerned. While it is a rare occurrence, a snapper has the ability to inflict severe damage on a human being, as was the case of a 9-year-old in Medina County in 1999. Jimmy Beby was swimming with five others in approximately four feet of water in Turnkey Creek when a large snapper left the bank headed in their direction. Before the boys could leave the water the snapper attacked and completely severed Jimmy's big toe. The struggle lasted over five minutes.

In addition to being careless and irresponsible to release these snapping turtles at the park pond, it is also in direct violation of Ohio Administrative Code 1501:31-13-05, which states that it is unlawful for any person to take, posess, or transport snapping turtles in the state from May 1 to 6 p.m. on June 14 each year except at Pymatuning Lake.

I urge you to be cautious at or near the park pond, and to contact the city and ask for the animals to be caught and relocated to a safer place.

Jerry Coblentz

City Park manager

East Palestine



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