Posted tagged ‘hatchling turtle on eastern Long Island’

What is this hatchling turtle?

September 21, 2012

Yesterday evening, as Esau the dog and I walked along the road in the last light of the day, we spotted a strange small shape almost under our feet.

hatchling turtle

Tiny turtle on the road

It is a tiny turtle, completely still, on the road.

Its strange eyes make it look almost like a child’s toy dropped carelessly from a stroller. Almost. I have that strange gathering of the insides that I feel when I see an animal unexpectedly. I pick up the little creature to see if it’s alive. It is.

I know it’s generally best to leave baby animals where one finds them. But I can’t leave it on the road.  And does it need water or land? I think it may be a baby snapping turtle, but I’m not sure.  Do snappers live in salty water? Because Mecox Bay is the only water around. It is brackish rather than full salt, as it is only occasionally open to the ocean. Most of the year, it is more like a salt water pond.

mecox bay at sunset

Whichever way you choose, Mecox Bay at sunset is gorgeous.

I bring the little turtle home and leave it on the deck while I go inside to look for a guide book that will help me identify it.

Beach house guide books, accumulated over the decades by family and renters.

There are books on flowers, trees, birds, mammals, sea creatures, sea shells, rocks and stars.  Not a word on reptiles. Well, the sea creature book has sea turtles, but I can tell this little guy doesn’t have a sea turtle’s flippers. So what are some identifying traits of the tiny turtle?

It is about half the size of my thumb.

tiny turtle

Tom Half-a-thumb

Or you could say it is probably about the size of silver dollar. Here it is next to a quarter.

Hatchling size

Small turtle.

It has huge, dark eyes. Or rather, the structure that contains the eye is huge and bulging. The eye itself is inside the bulge.

turtle eyes

Eyes like chocolate drops

The shell, or carapace is fairly flat, though rough, and ridged.  The color is a dark, earthy-looking brown. (The first photo, taken with my iPhone in fading light, does not accurately convey the deep mud color.)  The tail is very long and mobile. The little turtle does not seem able to retract fully into its shell.

small turtle

Look at that tail.

It has an impressive set of claws.

baby turtle

Long claws, tiny feet.

I do a quick google search, but find no satisfactory answers. I decide to leave it to make its own way in nature, placing it under a hedge in a protected spot. It just sits there and doesn’t move.

Dear readers, I’m sure some of you can easily identify this little guy for me.  Please leave a comment with your thoughts on what kind of turtle this is, and on what you think I should have done with it.

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