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Snapping Turtle Takes Advantage of Opportunity to Breathe Air

12-28-16-snapping-turtle-15622315_1172616449501958_3688331953512399657_nOpportunities to see turtles in winter are extremely limited, but a hole chopped in pond ice recently revealed a Snapping Turtle swimming in the water beneath the ice. According to Jim Andrews, Director of the Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas( ), most turtles don’t often burrow into the mud during winter. They need to take in dissolved oxygen from the water and there is not much available in the mud. Turtles take in oxygen through the linings of their mouths and sometimes thin-skinned, capillary-rich areas in their cloaca and armpits. Many turtles are just sitting on the bottom of ponds. They may use a rock, log, or maybe some leaves for a little protection from otters or other predators.

If the ice is clear, it is possible to see turtles swimming beneath it. Andrews suggests that the Snapping Turtle in the photograph is likely picking up an oxygen boost by using its lungs for a change. It may be four more months before it gets another breath of fresh air. (Thanks to Jim Andrews for post and Barb and Paul Kivlin of Shoreham, VT for photo.)

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6 responses

  1. I’m not clear: are you saying this turtle had come to the surface to breathe? And can I assume the hole was made by humans? Happy snowy day!! More on its way!!!

    December 28, 2016 at 9:35 am

    • Exactly, John, the snapper became aware of the hole, and came up for a breath or two of air. The hole was made by humans. Sounds like quite the Nor’easter on its way!

      December 29, 2016 at 8:12 am

  2. Alice Pratt

    I’ll need to go check the pond near us, when there is ice!

    December 28, 2016 at 9:42 am

  3. Kathie Fiveash

    This is an amazing photo, reminding us of the lives locked under the ice, and how we all yearn for a breath of fresh air and some space to move in. At my local lake, with the thaw of the past few days, the beavers have broken out – a small ice-free circle near the lodge where they can swim and climb out on the ice. I’m sure they broke it out from below with their heads – I’ve seen them do it before. I wonder if the local snappers are using that hole too!

    December 28, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    • Hi Kathie, One of my favorite things on earth is to watch beavers bumping the ice with their heads in order to break through!

      December 29, 2016 at 7:13 am

  4. Robin Snyder-Drummond

    Well this is another amazing fact. Imagine holding your breath for four months!

    December 29, 2016 at 5:48 pm

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