Chonkosaurus, a rather overweight common snapping turtle found in the Chicago River, has made themself quite the cook county celebrity but during our time out in the field we came across a hefty spiny softshell turtle that we believe could be the perfect foe. Kami and I come across a plethora of common snapping turtles at each of the sites we have caught at as they tend to share the same substrate preferences as the other turtles we hope to catch!
We started this week per usual, setting up our 30 traps along a different stretch of the Des Plaines. This site was slightly different from the last as the substrate was much more mucky (and nearly impossible to traverse at any sort of fast pace) so we spent the majority of our time Monday, and the rest of the week, on a mini armada of kayaks. This site also contained a lake that was separated from the river by only a 20-foot strip of land that we quickly became aware was home to numerous watersnakes!
On Tuesday the real fun started, we began the day on a sour note as the first trap Kami and I went to had been pulled and thrown ashore. Luckily, things quickly turned around moments after as we got texts quickly flooding in from Paul, our handy Turtle Trap Masta’, saying he already found 2 softshells in the traps he had checked! Things only continued to heat up from there, as the 4 of us (Kami, Dr. John, Paul, and I) made our way toward the lake to start sampling the turtles we caught, more turtles started piling up in our kayaks. By the end of the sampling day Kami and I had sampled and examined 12 softshells (one of which being Softzilla)! A new record! We were even able to catch a large watersnake to add to the sampling pool while we were on the rock plateau.
On Wednesday, as Kami continued her turtle pursuit with Dr. John and Dr. Allender, I joined my trusted snake partner in crime, Liz, back at our coverboard site for the first time in what felt like forever! The site’s flora seemed to have grown a few feet since we were there last and unfortunately had made spotting snakes a bit more challenging. We didn’t find any snakes when flipping rocks but even with most of our coverboards now enveloped by either wild daisies or poison ivy we were able to spot 4 Dekay’s brownsnakes cozy underneath!
Thursday and Friday were definitely less exciting catch days but had some highlights nonetheless! I caught my 50th snake of the snake project out when flipping rocks along the lakeshore and Liz came out for her first day on the turtle side of things and pulled blood like an absolute pro!
Cook county crew hanging up our waders until next week!
Weekly Capture Count
4 Common Watersnakes
4 DeKays brownsnakes