Saturday, March 24, 2007

My little boy is growing up

I was cleaning out Howard's tank tonight and realized he's grown a bit. Then I realized that it's been six months since he hatched (well, six months and two weeks), and so I figured I'd take another picture of him, again with a quarter for scale.

He's certainly no trouble. Every week or two I put him in a bowl and then scrub his rocks and rinse out his tank, which isn't hard since it only has about an inch-and-a-half of water in it. And as far as expense, it's negligible -- he's still on his first packet of turtle food, though every two or three weeks I give him a chunk of raw meat about the size of the top knuckle of my little finger. (Hmm ... perhaps that's not a comparison I should share with him, lest it give him ideas.)

As far as sociability, he's no more eager to be my friend than he ever was -- snappers are grumpy, solitary characters by nature and the little ones stay out of sight for the first couple of years of their lives anyway. On the other hand, he's learned that when he sees me moving around, food is likely to happen, so he often comes out of his cave and cranes his neck to see what I'm up to.

This is a little bothersome in terms of my original plan to keep him around until he gets larger and then release him -- he really shouldn't come up to people expecting food once he gets out in the wild. But this interest in food doesn't mean he's ever going to be "friendly" and he'll certainly become more risky to handle the larger he gets.

It is a puzzlement. But he continues to amuse me and I like having him around. When he gets big enough to snip off my fingers, I guess I'll have to sit down and think it all out, but, even at this rate of growth, that's going to be awhile.


Sherwood Harrington said...

You're a braver man than I am, Mike Peterson. Isn't this a little bit like growing nitroglycerin crystals for a hobby? At some point, they'd be able to take your fingers off, too.

What do snapping turtles who don't get to live indoors do during Maine winters? Hibernate?

Mike said...

I'd just like to point out that, if you handle nitroglycerin very gently, it won't hurt you. That would be a difference.

And, yes, in winter they dig down into the mud and sleep away the weather. I'm still figuring out how much to feed Howard; some people talk about periodically not feeding their snappers for a few months, but I'm not sure how much they give them the rest of the time. In any case, the turtles don't sleep during that time, but I guess they burn off some fat.

Sherwood Harrington said...

"Some people"?? What, is keeping bear-trap-mouthed reptiles a growth industry in Maine? Are they to Maine what Pit Bulls are to my neighborhood?

Actually, on further reflection (read "Googling"), I guess you're not at all alone.

ronnie said...

Awwwwwwwwwwwww, luh! luh!

ronnie said...

Mojo still wants a turtle of his own. You're only encouraging him. Maybe you should record some video of Howard (perhaps at a later stage of his development) snapping a pencil in two with ease to shut him [Mojo} up.

Incidentally, I can't remember - didn't you meet Howard in NY? Did he migrate with you to ME? Are you about to do the equivalent of bringing rabbits to Australia?

Mike said...

Yes, Howard came out in the UHaul, one of the challenges being to make sure he didn't get so cold that he decided to hibernate.

The authorities in Maine have become quite militant about enforcing laws against non-native species, including seizing ornamental koi from a Chinese restaurant. But snappers are native to Maine, so there will be no great ecological disaster if I don't haul Howard back to New York when the time comes for him to seek his destiny.

Though I like the idea of Mainers, beset by hordes of invasive snapping turtles, erecting a fence the length of the state to keep them confined. It would only have to be about 18 inches tall.