A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

Turtle Recall

The following correspondence was inspired by real events. The names have not been changed.

—– Original Message —–

From: Iris Beard
To: higganse@bellsouth.net
Tuesday, May 26, 2009 1:26 PM
turtle bite

Dear Phillip,

My kids and I found a giant snapping turtle on the side of the road today. It looked exactly like the photo on your website… huge and prehistoric looking! Just incredible! We were truly in awe. I’ve only seen little box turtles in person before… never anything this big.

Close up photo of a Snapping Turtle.

Photo used with permission from Phillip Higgins.

Well, I am so embarrassed to admit it, but we were trying to “pet” the turtle. I’m sure you can guess where I’m going with this, but I learned the hard way why they are called “snapping turtles.” He got my thumb and sliced it wide open with his pointy beak. I had no idea a turtle could move so fast! I feel like such an idiot! I promise, that is the last time I try to pet a wild animal (at least without a first aid kit and a child psychologist on hand).  I used it as a teachable moment so that my kids will learn from my mistake and not try to handle wild creatures, and hopefully my 6 year old daughter won’t be too traumatized and be afraid of turtles for the rest of her life… but it was pretty scary.

So, I’m writing to ask two things…

1.) may I please have permission to use the picture of a snapping turtle on your website for a blog post about my harrowing and idiotic experience?


2.) my husband told me I should be grateful he didn’t bite my thumb clean off. Is it true that these turtles can cause that kind of damage? And should I have a doctor look at my wound? It is a pretty deep slice… looks like a kitchen knife made it… not a puncture wound… but I don’t think I need stitches and I cleaned it out really well. Do turtles carry any diseases I should be concerned about???

Moments after it happened, this is what the turtle bite looked like.

Please be kind… I already feel like such a moron!



—– Reply —–

From: higganse@bellsouth.net
To: Iris Beard
Monday, June 1, 2009 3:32 PM
RE: turtle bite

1) Yes you can use my pictures.

2) Snapping turtles have been known to take off fingers if not almost entire hands. Down in Louisianna if you talk to any snapping turtle hunters, who make stew out of the animals, many of them have missing fingers and so forth. Really the only thing you would have to worry about your bite is infection. There are no other diseases to be concerned about. I wouldn’t go to the doctor unless you need stitches or get a severe infection. I have been bitten by many turtles and never had any true long-term effects from it.


—– Moral of the story —–

Do not pet a snapping turtle. Those mo-fos are extremely aggressive and dangerous, particularly on land.

Even if your youngest child is completely obsessed with turtles and cannot sleep without his trusty stuffed turtle in his arms. Never pet a snapping turtle.

Even if you think you have a special way of communicating with animals and have recently rescued two trapped baby birds from your garage and your friend Christel calls you the Dog Whisperer. Beware of snapping turtles.

Even if it is the first day of summer vacation and you are in a flat out panic about having to spend the next 75 days with your three children, all day, every day. Petting a snapping turtle is not okay.

Even if you are practically incapacitated with guilt from having missed signing up your kids for any decent day camps. Stay the fuck away from snapping turtles.

Just because you didn’t realize that all the local swim teams fill up by late February and you are stuck having to teach your own children how to swim does not give you the right to create an impromptu roadside petting zoo with a creature whose bite force is 1004 psi (pounds per square inch). For your reference, a lion has a bite force of 691 psi, a great white shark has a bite force of 600 psi, and a Rottweiler: 328 psi. In other words, it’s probably safer to pet a Rottweiler who is being gang raped by a pride of hungry lions in a chum filled shark tank than it is to pet a snapping turtle. Or for my bilingual readers: tortuga mordedora esta muy peligroso.

So, never pet a snapping turtle. That’s my Just the Tip Tuesday tip for you, friends.

Special thanks to MerrilyMaryLee for inspiring me with this delightful post to finally share some of the embarrassing details about my snapping turtle encounter.  Apparently, yesterday was World Turtle Day. Good to know. Maybe I’ll celebrate it with some store bought turtle soup.

licensed to drive, but not to parent,


© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.


  1. Julie

    This? This right here? This is the reason I wish we could bring back the word “epic.”

    “tortuga mordedora esta muy peligroso”

    You really, really need to start selling t-shirts.

    • Kim(aka badgasmom)

      OMG…I would SO wear one. As long as the writing was on the back, cuz I don’t want anyone staring at my boobies. But then again, I don’t want people tempted to stare at my behind either. But…hellz yeah, it would be worth it!!

  2. Anna

    Shut up! I’m new to your blog and just got odd looks for snorting and laughing at my desk as I read your blog. Oh, Lordy…what a horrible, horrible (yet very funny) thing to happen to you! How many curse words slipped out after it happened? My way of dealing with such injuries is to cover up the wound really quick and take peeks at it once my blood stops pumping in my ears 🙂

    Two years ago, we came home to a big mamma jamma like this laying eggs in our front yard. Luckily, she was a bit too busy to take a bite out of us. After reading this, I will be sure to take a step back instead of forward next time I see one!

    • The Bearded Iris

      Hi Anna! Thanks for stopping by!

      Believe it or not, I had gotten all the kids out of the van and we had formed a circle around that mo-fo. AND we were all in flip-flops. I was crouched down trying to pet it when he/she hissed like a snake and struck me. It happened SO FAST that I just looked at the kids in terror and screamed “RUN!!! GET IN THE VAN!!! GO! GO! GO!” I may have actually been too frightened to cuss.

      You are so right about the blood pumping in the ears part. It was so throbby and sore. And that was just my ego.

  3. Merrilymarylee

    I checked thehttp://oddlovescompany.com/blog//a> calendar for the day. Good news: It’s National Tiara Day.

    It’s also National Escargot Day, but it sounds like the 6-year-old has had enough trauma without finding them on her plate. Tiaras all around. The boys will get over it.

  4. Merrilymarylee

    DANG! Let me try that one more time. It’s worth it just to see that gawdawful photo of Priscilla Presley she has. (It’s Prissy’s birthday.)

    If that doesn’t work, you can find it on your own.

    Your thumb… OUCH!

  5. Jen

    Well. Hell. The boys get out for the summer tomorrow and now I’m officially out of ideas for the next three months. 😉
    And yeah, sorry about your finger and all? But this gave me a much needed belly laugh.

  6. Kylie L

    Absolutely brilliant! I am applauding while doubled over with laughter 🙂

  7. Katybeth Jensen Ruscitti

    You are very very lucky. I know it does not seem possible BUT the legend is that a snapping turtle will not let go until it thunders. Not sure how often it thunders where you are but your choice may have been to kill the turtle or wear the turtle. No an easy choice when kids are involved.

    I’m going to help our good friend and fellow blogger Mary Lee out. I added the link to Pricilla under “website above” and here is some more turtle info just in case you have not had enough of turtles. ….http://oddlovescompany.com/blog/2011/05/musing-coles-trip-pennies-and-snapping-turtles/

    I thought ML described you as “sassy” but she might have meant, “Snappy.” Hope your finger heals quickly!

  8. bernie bickers

    not to freak you out, but don’t turtles sometimes carry salmonella?

    • Tiffany

      Baby turtles, yes. Older one bigger than 2 inches and wild not so much 🙂

  9. Megan

    Holy Crap! I’m glad you are all right!

    Wow! Stick to the petting zoo, K. You want me to look some up for you in Atlanta? 😉

  10. Danielle@sixtasteschef.com/blog

    Is it just me or does that turtle in the picture look malevolent? I am shuddering to think about the bite on your thumb when I look at its beak! Ouch.

  11. Handflapper

    Um, don’t pet turtles, okay? Pretty sure they don’t know the difference, and snapping turtles are assholes, anyway. YOU ARE LUCKY TO STILL HAVE YOUR THUMB AND I AM NOT EVEN KIDDING. Seriously, my uncle lost all his fingers to a snapping turtle. Or he might have got his hand caught in a chain saw. While looking at a snapping turtle. Or not. Anyway, he was missing all his fingers on one hand.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Believe you-me, I know how lucky I am and am grateful to God every day that I didn’t lose a digit or worse that fateful day. I never would have forgiven myself if that turtle had harmed one of my babies.

      On the plus side, none of my kids will ever make that mistake. Their Yankee city-girl mama didn’t know the diff between a box turtle and a snapping turtle, but my kids sure do now!

      Oh your poor uncle. I don’t know what’s worse, the snapper or the chainsaw. Either way, damn. (Pretty funny the way you tell it though!)

  12. melanie

    Are you nuts? What is it about a turtle that makes you want to pet it? It’s ugly for a REASON. Most ugly creatures are made that way so that we know NOT to touch them. Dinosaurs, hyenas, wild boars, rhinoceros, sharks, armadillos. Ok, maybe not the armadillos, but the rest is on the “no touch” list. Unless of course you want to lose the rest of your hand, then by all means pet away. 😉

    • The Bearded Iris

      OMG, so true. Must. Not. Touch. Ugly. Things.

      In related news, “Georgia housewife refuses to touch husband’s penis. News at Eleven.”

      • Sarah L.

        LOL! Best comment ever!

  13. This Mid 30s Life

    …and no-one has commented on people eating turtle stew…?

    • The Bearded Iris

      I know, right?! Maybe that’s an American thing? Supposedly it tastes like chicken. I’ll just have to take “their” word for it.

      • This Mid 30s Life

        Isn’t everything meant to taste like chicken? Isn’t that what those that have eaten human flesh for their own survival have said?

        Wonder how that makes the chickens feel. “So why do you need to eat US??”

        OK off to bed now. xx

        • The Bearded Iris

          Hilarious! Never thought about the chicken’s perspective!!! “Hey, this tastes like me!”

  14. oneshabbychick

    Yikes!!! (I am just getting caught up here….) I am so glad that it happened to you and not one of the kiddos… I’m also glad you got to keep it… your thumb, I mean. Looks nasty. Nice to get a little distance so you can look back and laugh a little, huh? :-}

    • The Bearded Iris

      Well, in all fairness, my thumb was nasty BEFORE the turtle incident. Hands like feet. But yes, thank you for the sympathy and kind words! It has taken me two years to be able to laugh about it! 🙂

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