Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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Snapping Turtles
Nature Bulletin No. 7  March 24, 1945
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Clayton F. Smith, President
Dr. David H. Thompson, Zoologist

A SNAPPING TURTLE, a BLANDING'S TURTLE and two PAINTED TURTLES were found along the shores of McGinnis Slough on March 10. They were alive but very sluggish. On March 17, nineteen snappers, another Blanding and several painted turtles were found alive. All were very sluggish although it was a warm, sunny day. The two largest snappers, weighing about 25 pounds each, later died. Numbers of dead painted turtles were found along the shore. This was unusually early for turtles to be out.

Turtles and frogs "hole up" for the winter and hibernate in the mud under the ice. When animals hibernate, their body processes do not stop completely; they merely slow way down. Some species slow down more than others but all of them continue to breathe or use oxygen, and their hearts continue to beat very slowly. Although turtles can remain under water for long periods in the hot summer, they have lungs and must come up to breathe air once in a while. So it is with frogs. Both turtles and frogs must have some oxygen when they hibernate for the winter under the ice. They get this oxygen by absorbing oxygen, dissolved in the water, through the membranes of their mouths and throats. Some kinds of animals may also take dissolved oxygen in through their skins.

When thousands of fish suffocate or "winter kill" due to thick, snow- covered ice covering the water for a long time, as happened this winter, sometimes the turtles and frogs smother too. Since it was unusually early for turtles to be out we may suppose they were roused from their sleep by partial suffocation. Many floated to the top, got air, were washed ashore by the wind, and lived. Others died before they got ashore. The two big snappers were too weak to breathe and live.

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