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'Turtle Talks' coming to Crooked Creek in Bethel

| Friday, May 2, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Louis B.Ruediger | Trib Total Media
Greg Levish shows off a snapping turtle that he often uses during his Turtle Talk presentations.

If you want to talk turtle, Greg Levish is your man and the Crooked Creek Environmental Learning Center on Saturday is the place to do it.

“There aren't too many turtle trapping fools like me around anymore,” Levish said. “Trapping has been good to me.”

The creator of the “Turtle Talk” presentation from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. will be featured in the learning center's first open house of the spring. Some 30 years of trapping gives him plenty of material for his audience.

Levish, 64, of Sarver has gone on countless hunts and will talk about how to safely trap and handle snapping turtles, weaving trapping nets and handling hooks... and, of course, cooking up a meal with turtle meat.

An avid outdoorsman, Levish said he went on his first snapping turtle hunt as part of a family vacation. Ever since then, he's been hooked on the sport.

“During my first hunt, I was lucky enough to get one, and now, I don't know where that 30 years has gone,” Levish said. “It's been one of the most rewarding hobbies because of all the people I've met.”

The snapping turtle trapping season runs July 1 to Oct. 31, and trappers are limited to 15 turtles per day, Levish said.

The peak trapping time is in July, when Levish will spend most of his days in swamps around Butler and Armstrong counties. Toward the end of the season, it gets more difficult to find turtles, since they usually begin bedding in the mud to hibernate for the winter, he said.

“I always hear the same thing — there's no way there are that many snappers around,” Levish said. “But I go into a remote area, with the heat, mosquitoes and snakes in swamps, and look crazy, but always surprise them with what I catch.”

He warns that anyone encountering a snapping turtle should be cautious, since it's a short-tempered animal with powerful jaws.

“Their jaw is so strong that it could take a finger right off without any problem,” Levish said.

Levish prides himself with using each part of every turtle he traps.

He always eats the meat — often in turtle soup — and has fashioned their shells into several things around his home, including clocks, vases and jewelry.

Levish said he is almost as passionate about telling his stories as he is about trapping.

“I love sharing my stories, especially with kids, to get them to put down their computers and iPads and get them outdoors,” Levish said. “And I want to let them know how to do it safely.”

The Crooked Creek open house featuring Levish will be used to highlight the park and keep its amenities fresh in everyone's mind, said Dennis Hawley, program coordinator at the center.

“We like to try to let people know we're out here and showcase what we have to offer,” Hawley said. “It's a good way to get people out to discover the area's nature.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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