It's not something you expect to see in your front yard — a large snapping turtle, laying eggs. But that's what Wayne Irwin encountered recently at his home near Rathwell, along the Assiniboine River in southern Manitoba.
'It didn't appear to be afraid at all, in fact it was more aggressive than anything.' - Wayne Irwin
A few days ago he noticed his three-year-old golden retriever, Penny, making a fuss out in the yard, so he went out to investigate.
What he found was a huge snapping turtle digging a hole for a nest.
Irwin estimates that she weighed 25 to 30 pounds, measured ½ feet across in diameter and had legs that resemble a person's hands and arms.
Penny must have realized this turtle posed a threat because she didn't want to get too close, but Irwin was curious.
"I thought, well, I'll just put my foot in front of it to see how aggressive it is," he said.
"It didn't seem to be very friendly and it immediately snapped out like lightening and bit a piece of rubber off the end of my boot."
Fortunately, Irwin was wearing steel-toed boots.
"She could easily take off a finger if you go close to her," he said, warily. "It didn't appear to be afraid at all; in fact, it was more aggressive than anything."
This is not the first time a snapping turtle has ventured onto Irwin's property. The last time, about 10 years ago, the conditions were similar with high water on the river.
Irwin surmises that without the sandbars that usually line the river, the turtle needed to travel farther to find a suitable nesting spot.
Several hours later, the turtle was gone, having left the eggs covered up by sand.
Irwin, knowing that it takes 80 to 90 days for the eggs to hatch, decided to protect them by placing a rubber tire around them. He hopes that once they hatch, he'll be able to carry them down to the river so that more will be able to survive.
As for Penny, Irwin said she eventually settled down and backed off.
"She was thinking that this thing was kind of a prehistoric animal, I think. And really, it does kind of look like that, it's so big. It had a horned appendage on its tail, it definitely was quite an old turtle. But interesting to see that," he said.