Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Snap Yo' Fingers

This month, I intend to keep with a theme: Local Water Habitats in Danger1. I could, if I felt so inclined, spend a good long time on aquatic larval insects. However, I would rather keep from stagnating on a specific taxon, so here’s an angry turtle.

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.


Anonymous said...

This brings back childhood memories...

When I was in elementary school (too stupid to know better), my friend and I caught a huge alligator snapping turtle (this was in Conroe, TX)and carried the thing home.

We had jury-rigged something over its head and put it in a wagon, I think. I do remember that its shell was covered in a thick mat of algae and leeches...yuck!

Being of that age, I wanted to keep it and put it in a big metal tub (that we used to wash the dog) filled with water in our backyard. I put a metal screen over the top and bricks on the screen to hold it down.

Needless to say, the next morning the turtle was long gone...They are quite strong! (Of course, it may have also been released by my Mom who was less than thrilled at my new aquisition!)

nobugs said...

There's a certain kind of CUTE in that ugly face.

Great blog!

Anonymous said...

I caught an Alligator snapping turtle in a Hamilton County Park in Ohio.. Cincinnati area.. so it IS in Ohio

Coshocton said...

I live in mid eastern ohio and have seen many alligator snapping turtles actually found one crossing a road last year that was only about 3 inches across. I took him down over the hill to the river away from the road. Although I see many normal snappers there are alligator snappers even halfway up the state of ohio without a doubt.

Anonymous said...

i live in columbiana county ohio and we recently found an alligator snapping turtle crossing our yard. because of our curious dogs and cats, we took it to a nearby pond and released it. i've also seen one in ashtabula county right along lake erie in a stream. it was huge and we enjoyed looking at him. so, yes, they do live in ohio.

Anonymous said...

Not exacatlly ture about allagator snappers not being in Ohio. I was on my way to visit my brother in Stockport along the Muskingdom River, on the way a huge Allagator snapper was trying to cross I-70. I had never seen one before so I pulled over to check it out,and to get it out of the road. I thought it was going to eat me up! A very agressive creature. I have been interested in them ever sence. So yea, their in Ohio..

Anonymous said...

I just put one back in the water in Dublin Ohio in the olentangy river. Small but where there are small there had to be big.

Ugly Animals said...

I do not know what does nobug finds as cute in that ugly face Lol Well each to their own but it is all ugly all over!