A Snapping Turtle Rendezvous

P1130613By Matthew Stoffel

Outdoor University is our favorite time of year for many reasons, one being that it brings together our own staff and the staff of The Outdoor Campus-West. This provides an opportunity to do what TOC staff –East and West river – do best: Teach and learn about the outdoors.

On this occasion, Keith Wintersteen, the Group Program Naturalist of TOC-West, had requested a lesson from our own Derek Klawitter. The subject? How to harvest a snapping turtle.

The snapping turtle came from TOC-West, along with their rock wall.
The snapping turtle came from TOC-West, along with their rock wall.

For those who don’t know, Derek is huge on hunting. If people kill it and harvest the meat somewhere in the world, he probably knows a thing or two about it. In the case of snapping turtles, he learned from his uncle when he was a teenager.

Keith had heard interest from several visitors in learning how to clean a turtle for turtle soup or other recipes. In South Dakota, anyone with a fishing license can reel in, trap or simply grab turtles for consumption. There is a daily limit of two turtles of each species and a possession limit of four of each species, with False Map turtles being protected. (Because turtles are long-lived animals and take time to reach sexual maturity, turtles can only be taken for personal consumption.)

Derek sharpening the filet knife.
Derek sharpening the filet knife.
In any case, Keith set out to create a class on the subject, and will also integrate a demonstration into his “Taste the Black Hills” TOC-West class on legal foods that can be forage in the Rapid City area.

The details of how you clean the turtle are a bit gory for our normal blog content, but interested readers can take a look at this article from The Rapid City Journal, featuring both Derek and Keith: http://rapidcityjournal.com/sports/great-outdoors/feature/snapping-turtle-a-delicacy-but-not-a-delicate-cleaning-job/article_0e8ac9c9-6efd-5cbf-8df5-fba997d774b5.html

What made me proud was seeing that the turtle Derek demonstrated on was not only handled respectfully and used for educational gain, but also knowing that every useful part of the turtle was spoken for before the lesson even began. Nothing was going to go to waste. The claws are being made into a necklace, the shell and skull have been set aside for education at TOC-West and the meat will be… Well, meat.

Derek has his turtle-cleaning method down to a science.
Derek has his turtle-cleaning method down to a science.

Overall, it was a cool experience, and it helped establish a bit of comradery between the two campuses before our biggest day of the year.

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