A snapping turtle

3 years ago

Olof Nylander helped many Aroostook County residents identify uncommon  animals and plants in the area. One was a snapping turtle, Latin name Chelydra  Serpentina, which is a large freshwater reptile. 

Snapping turtles’ habitat is from Florida to Maine and Midcentral America. They live mostly in ponds and small streams and will eat anything they can find with their beak-like jaws. The word “serpentina” means snakelike for their neck shape. 

Following is Mr. Nylander’s account of a rare snapping turtle sighting in the Caribou area.  

“July 7, 1935: Mr. Harold E. Hale who lives near the Aroostook River about three miles  south of Caribou village captured on the 5th of July a large turtle that had killed a  chicken that happened to come to near this always snapping brute. The large size of this  turtle drew special attention and after showing it to everybody nearby, they came to the  conclusion that it was something that had not been seen nor heard of, advised the  finder to go and see me about it, and I am always glad to help people to find their wishes if possible. 

“I have never seen a snapping turtle in the Northern part of Maine, and it is probably a rare find. It is an old specimen, the head and neck are five inches long and if stretched out it is much longer: Length of carapace 13 inches, width of carapace 10 inches, length of tail 10 inches, total length of specimen 28 inches. 

“This compares well with ordinary large specimens of New York State and Indiana;  specimens of larger size are recorded but they are not common. So I would like to ask the question, “has anyone ever seen a snapping turtle in Aroostook County Maine, and is there any published record of it?”  

The last known sighting of a snapping turtle was in the summer of 2019 at Collins  Pond. If you have the chance to see a snapping turtle, do not handle it. Enjoy from a safe distance, but do take a photo or video. Send to the Nylander Museum Facebook page with when and where of the sighting. Others can enjoy your find, or the museum can help with identification. 

Maybe you will have the opportunity  to see this rare sight. Or is it rare? Perhaps there are more snapping turtles in The County now than from Olof’s account in 1935. 

This column is the work of members of the Nylander Museum’s Board of Trustees.