|Image from National Geographic|
The Alligator Snapping Turtle (Macroclemys temmincki) is the largest turtle in North America, and the largest freshwater turtle in the world; it can reach weights of more than 100 pounds. They inhabit any freshwater area large enough to house them: rivers, ponds, swamps, and similar. Their range covers much of the Southeastern United States, and up the Mississippi River to northern Illinois. Alas, this majestic animal does not make it into Ohio.
They’re called Snapping Turtles for a reason. They will sit at the bottom of the pool blending completely with the rocks. Their tongue has a wiggling wormlike projection that acts as a lure for any unsuspecting fish or frogs. Any animal that looks too closely… WAPOW! The sharp beak instantly grabs on. I wish I could find better videos of this, but a search on YouTube brings forth a good number low quality videos of Alligator Snappers doing just that2.
The biggest threat to this animal is hunting, primarily for food. There’s a lot of meat on a 100-pound turtle, if you can keep all your fingers3. Since it takes about 12 years to reach sexual maturity, these slow-growing animals need some time to recover. This, along with the issues of pollution and runoff, are why it is listed in three states, and on the IUCN list. Many states now prohibit Snapping Turtle collection, though it is allowed in others with a permit. The EPA has wetland assessment methods in place to limit the impacts pollution will have on those fragile habitats, keeping the Alligator Snapper and its cohorts safer.
1There is a reason for this. My senior biology project concerns information that never gets from the scientists to the public, such as, say endangered species that people don’t hear about. I want to involve my summer experience of working with the Ohio EPA’s water control methods. Hence, Endangered Ugly Things: Midwest Water Edition!
2Many of them are pets. I don’t like that. A) They’re CITES protected, which, alas, doesn’t stop domestic trade. B) I’m against keeping any animal with the ability to bite your hand off in less than a second.
3Arguably, there’s more meat if you can’t keep all your fingers, but I’m not going to think about that.