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Turtle could not wait for spring

April 17, 2020 by Beckie Gaskill

Charlie Nemcek is very good with “wild critters,” according to his mom Christy Seidel. This was good news for one lucky turtle earlier this month. Nemcek found a snapping turtle upside down on the ice on a lake near his home. He brought the turtle home, and he and Seidel then brought it to Northwoods Wildlife Center in Minocqua. Nemcek said there were tracks around where the turtle was flipped upside down. He thought they were likely that of a coyote or some other predator.

“It’s pretty rare to find a turtle out this time of year,” advanced wildlife rehabilitation Amanda Schirmer from Northwoods Wildlife Center said. She said the warm weather may have had the turtle thinking spring had arrived. When it got to the lake, there was no open water for it to get into. She said it was hard to tell how the turtle came to be upside down, how Nemcek had found it, but it would have likely had a much harder time righting itself again on the slippery ice.

“She is a little on the light side, which may have influenced her waking up, too,” Schirmer said. The turtle had an injury to her nose, which Schirmer said was now scabbed over and healing well. The tip of her tale, though, may not fare as well. The turtle did have some frostbite, and may lose the tip of her tail, but her fate could have been much worse.

“If Charlie hadn’t found her, she may have only made it another day,” Schirmer said. Snapping turtles, she said, over winter in deeper swampy areas while turtles such as painted turtles burrow into the bottom substrate of deep lakes. Their metabolism slows, so they only need to breathe a couple times per minute.

“The funny thing about turtles, is they can breathe out of their butt,” she said. Turtles bury their head and body into the substrate, leaving only their hind end out. They also do not eat during this time, instead eating a bit more in the late fall to get them through until spring. When spring comes, snapping turtles leave their swampy winter home and head back to their lake. This usually does not happen until sometime in May, however. She was not sure, but felt the turtle was likely about 10 years old due to her size.

Schirmer said the turtle is doing well and the expect her to be released with no problems. The staff will likely wait until they see other turtles emerging from their winter lairs before releasing Nemcek’s turtle back into the wild. She will be released back into the same lake where she was found.

Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at [email protected]

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