I'm a mean, green, fighting machine! That describes me, a snapping turtle, to a T.
I don't go looking for trouble, but I don't let anyone push me around either. Not that they can--I weigh close to twenty pounds.
Look, I've paid my dues. I had a tough childhood. Back then I spent most of my time hiding under pond weeds from herons, gulls, muskrats, minks, raccoons, bigger turtles, bull frogs, and fish like bass and pike. I ate a lot of pond scum in those days.
Now the tables are turned. I go after a lot of those guys now. I surprise them with camouflage and speed. I wait just under the water looking like a moss-covered rock (it's this algae that grows on my shell), until one of those characters strolls by. Then, quick as a wink, I shoot out my neck and grab him with my razor-sharp jaws. Myclaws do the rest.
Yeah, I 've got a good, strong shell, wicked jaws, and I'm agile. And if I'm really ticked off, I let off my stink bomb--musk. Mucho offensive, you know? You've probably heard I can bite through a broom handle. Well, I can't. And besides, why would I want to? But you know what I like best about myself? My tail. It's as long as all the rest of me. Nice-looking, too.
I'm not into sunbathing like a lot of other turtle types are. Lying out on a log all day just makes you a sitting duck. Speaking of which, I could really go for a little duckling right about now. Hey, what's so bad about that? You eat chickens, don't you?
If you go swimming in my pond, you really don't have to worry about me. I don't go after people in the water. I'm too smart for that. I pull inside my shell (as much as I can fit; I kind of stick out around the edges). Then I make my escape to deeper water as soon as I can. But corner me on land and that's another story. Don't cross me there!
Which reminds me of last spring. I woke up, crawled out of the mud, and found my pond had been drained. Can you fathom that? So I decided I better go look for another watering hole. This teenager stops his car while I'm trying to cross the road and comes toward me with a big stick.
I think to myself, "You want to fight? Wait 'till I get my jaws on those pudgy toes hanging out of your sandals." But he uses the stick to push me to the other side of the road and gets back into his car and drives away. Go figure! As he drives off, he says,"Have a nice day, little dude!"
'Little dude', my foot! I must be twice his age!
Look, don't get me wrong. I don't have an attitude. I just watch out for myself. Hey, who are you looking at, anyway?
I'm a loggerhead sea turtle. I'm one of the lucky ones.
I hatched with 120 brothers and sisterson a warm June night a few years ago. I may be the only one still alive. We all hatched together from a nest our mother dug in the sand high up on a beach in Florida. At least we all got to hatch, nearly two months after our mother had left us there. Some nests get raided by poachers or raccoons or dogs. Even ants attack turtle nests.
I remember our race to the sea. We had already hatched a couple of nights before. We used this little hard knob on our heads to crack the shell, an egg tooth. Mine fell off long ago. We were hiding under the sand until all of a sudden some of us started to dig for the surface. The excitement was contagious! Soon we were all squirming and wiggling our way out of the nest.
We were drawn to the light on the horizon, instinctively knowing that that was the direction to safety. But some of my brothers and sisters saw the lights of the hotels behind us and scrambled up the beach into the dunes. I shudder to think of what happened to them when the sun rose the next day.
I was too busy to worry about them at the time. Crabs, raccoons, and sea birds attacked from all sides. Some of my family fell into tire tracks on the beach. The ditches held them until the predators found them. I scuttled down the gentle slope to the sea as fast as my flippers would push me. Water! It was my only thought, my only chance.
A wave caught me and snatched me away from the sharp beak of a herring gull. I dove as deep as I could. I swam under a school of mackerel waiting for us just offshore. How did they know we were coming? I swam and swam. I only came to the surface for a quick breath and then I'd dive again, knowing my protection lay in the dark shadows of the sea.
My front flippers helped me glide through the water. My rear flippers steered my course. My shell is trim and streamlined, so it doesn't slow me down when I swim. I only regret that it's too small to let me pull my head and flippers inside it as I hear land turtles can. But the sea buoys me up, so I can grow much larger that any pond turtle can. I might reach 300 pounds some day.
That time is a long way away. I'm still young. I've found refuge in the deep blue Sargasso Sea, far out in the Atlantic Ocean. I live among the sargassum weed. Sometimes a small Portuguese man-of-war passes by, its beautiful blue sail pushed before the wind. It's such a tasty jellyfish, I hardly mind the welts its stingers leave all over my head. It makes a welcome change from eating seaweed.
Someday I hope to grow up and return to the beach where I was born to start my own family. Maybe I'll be the one in a thousand who makes it. Come look me up in about 25 years and see.