Meet the “pond janitors” of New York City

Turtles have long inhabited the city’s ponds and estuaries.

But only one type, the cantankerous snapping turtle, has been dubbed the city’s “most successful native reptile.”

“Nearly every body of water, no matter how small, contains at least one snapping turtle,” states Wild New York, by Margaret Mittelbach and Michael Crewdson.

Not only do they thrive in ponds as well as salty waterways, these creatures been found in notoriously polluted areas, like Queens’ Newtown Creek.

Just don’t expect to see one sunning on a rock.

“Snapping turtles manage to keep a low profile by spending most of their time submerged,” write Mittelbach and Crewdson.

“Although they may snatch an occasional duckling or gosling, snapping turtles more commonly eat dead fish, expired frogs, aquatic vegetation, and even sandwiches dropped into the water.” Hence, “pond janitors.”

After surviving and adapting over the past 400 years, they’ve earned respect—and a place on some of the city’s fountains.

The sculpture above sits in a fountain at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza on East 47th Street.

Another sculpted snapper, at right, is carved into the base of the Pomona statue in front of the Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue and 59th Street.

[Top photo: Brian S. Padden; middle: Wally Gobetz]

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9 Responses to “Meet the “pond janitors” of New York City”

  1. Beth Says:

    These guys can be intimidating! This one followed me down a trail out to the main walking trail at Jamaica Bay a couple of years back. http://www.pbase.com/bgoffe/image/125062225

    Best to keep fingers away from that beak. They can relieve you of a finger, no problem.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Yeah, they don’t call them snapping turtles for nothing!

  3. SIster Morphine Says:

    this is awesome . i love turtles! thanks!

  4. wildnewyork Says:

    They are pretty cool little critters.

  5. BabyDave Says:

    Have you seen this one:

    http://thegoglog.blogspot.com/2012/06/this-is-life.html

  6. wildnewyork Says:

    Love it! I’m going to pay them a visit at the 6th Street Garden.

  7. Beth Says:

    BabyDave, these are actually red-eared sliders that people have released into the pond (you used to find them for sale on the street in Chinatown). They’re non-native species that reproduce and crowd out the native reptiles. They are cute, though, and fun to watch.

  8. How Manhattan’s Turtle Bay Got Its Name | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] while turtles were plentiful in Manhattan (and made for a tasty dinner), the name may come from an English corruption of a Dutch […]

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