Thursday, May 4, 2023

Adventures with a Stinkpot

I managed to capture this slow moving, ancient-looking dinosaur of a creature in a net last week, in an attempt to get its proper ID. This is the common musk turtle, Sternotherus odoratus, my first encounter with this species.

Photo by Dale Schultz

It was surprisingly easy to grab, so easy in fact, that I initially thought I'd caught a dead or dying specimen. I lifted it out of my net whilst still sitting out on the water in my kayak, but was so surprised when it suddenly started moving, that I dropped it onto my lap. Now it was crawling around on me and into the bottom of my kayak! Eek, that caused a momentary panic, but I managed to gather my courage and pick it up in my hands again, knowing it was alive. I then removed all the litter I had collected in my bucket, and put the turtle into it instead (it was preferable to have litter loose in my kayak than a sharp clawed turtle).

Back home I had the opportunity to get a few up close photos, and to consult my field guides. Look at those sharp claws! And that mouth has the look of someone who's just taken out their false teeth.

Its feet look very different, broad and webbed for swimming, when they're in use. My daughter also noticed that they look hennaed

There are some yellow lines on its triangular head:

A view of the fleshy looking tail beneath its shell

The underside, or plastron, is quite strikingly marked. It's also interesting to me how much flesh is exposed despite having a shell and base.

Photo by Dale Schultz

As you might guess from the common name, stinkpot, this turtle emits a musky odor when stressed, and is said to often bite when first captured!

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