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

—– Original Message —–

From: Iris Beard
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 —–

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.