It’s week 3 here in Lake County! After a long weekend, Varun and I were refreshed and ready to find some turtles! We had 74 traps set and our eyes were peeled for turtles out basking. Unfortunately, with the high heats, turtles weren’t interested in basking on the side of the pond. Can you blame them? We had zero hand-captures this week but our traps did well.
We finally got some practice handling snapping turtles and I’m happy to report that we all still have all our fingers. Did you know snappers can shrink themselves down and squeeze into traps? They don’t, but I don’t know how else to explain this big snapper that we measured to be 151mm wide that somehow fit into our hoop trap that only has an opening of 140mm wide. She must be defying physics to get some free sardines. The two Lake County turtle techs, Kyra and Eric, finally freed her after carefully unhooking her back toes and pulling her backwards out of the trap opening.
As you can see, she was not happy and letting Eric know that. Here she is when Kyra managed to pull her out. Success!
Now it’s time for a photo dump of all the wonderful herps we saw this week. The great thing about watching the ground carefully for turtles is that you are bound to find other cool animals too. My favorite this week was a garter snake cooling down near the pond surface. Garter snakes can swim and like to hang out near the water edge to look for prey. Tell me she isn’t the most photogenic snake!
We also finally found our first toad of the year! This little guy was outside our lab. I wouldn’t have seen him if he didn’t hop and catch my attention. Would you have noticed him?
If you have really sharp eyes, you might be able to spot a little hatchling turtle out basking. Here is the smallest painted turtle I have ever seen.
Non-herp mention: we saw a beaver swimming in a pond this week! He wasn’t thrilled with us walking near his home and swam around until we moved along. Sadly, he was too far away to get a good picture.
Frog of the week!
Of course, I have to end with the frog of the week. This one was FASCINATING. I pulled him out of the trap and felt a lump on his back. After swabbing him for Varun’s amphibian disease monitoring project, I took a closer look. The lump, near his left hind leg, looked strange but it wasn’t until I felt it that I realized what it was—an extra limb. Check this out!
The leg felt identical to his back limbs, with bones and muscle. It ends right before where his knee would be. I have heard of frogs growing extra limbs but haven’t seen one for myself, so this was a super interesting find.
We let him go since he seemed healthy and the extra limb wasn’t slowing him down one bit.
Until next week!