CHILO – Meet Raphael, the newest animal ambassador for the Clermont County Park District.
He’s neither a classical painter nor a mutant ninja, but he is a turtle. Specifically a baby snapping turtle (scientific name chelydra serpentina).
He joins an officially unnamed box turtle – although he is sometimes referred to as Chilo – and Sasha the corn snake in the Park District’s reptile family.
Why have two turtles?
“Snapping turtles live in the water and they are omnivores,” said Park District naturalist Robin Green. “They are more aggressive predators than box turtles and about two thirds of their diet is meat.
“Box turtles live on land and are also omnivores, but only about half their diet is meat. They generally eat whatever they can find.”
“Most turtles in this area live in the water, but we happened to have the one kind that didn’t. We wanted to have one that is representative of what most people see in nature.”
Green thinks Raphael will be a hit with the public.
“In my experience, snapping turtles are kind of like snakes,” she said. “People are a little bit scared of them, so they are kind of fascinated by them. People like to interact with the things that scare and fascinate them.
“People – including myself – are afraid of snapping turtles biting their toes in the water because they have very strong jaws. It’s a myth that they frequently bite people swimming though, and they just use their jaws to catch prey.”
Green’s sister found Raphael – and six of his siblings – and enlisted her help to move them before mowing the lawn. The next day, one little turtle was still hanging around a pond.
“That’s when I decided we should probably have him as an ambassador,” Green said. “I’ve raised a snapping turtle before and they aren’t too hard to take care of. He’ll be a good attraction for us.”
Raphael is barely two inches and a few ounces now, but the average snapping turtle grows between eight to 14 inches; they generally weigh from 10 to 25 pounds at maturity.
Stay tuned for opportunities to meet Raphael at several locations around the Park District in October during Green’s pop-up naturalist series.
Mark D. Motz is the Community Relations Manager for the Clermont County Park District. A native Cincinnatian, he has worked for more than 25 years as an award-winning journalist and public relations professional. Away from work, he enjoys photography, theater and spending time with his nine godchildren.