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Nine Year Old Captures Indiana’s Rarest Turtle

Aligator turtle

On Thursday, July 19, Gunner Neal and his grandpa headed out in their canoe to check their drop lines at Cypress Lake near Seymour, Indiana. Gunner told me they had baited the lines with cut bluegill and were having good luck catching good-sized catfish. They had also done this last year and was finding some of their hooks either bent or broken. Gunner’s grandpa, Bud Steltenpohl, told Gunner that it was probably a large turtle doing the damage, so Gunner nick named the turtle “Hercules”.

This year some of the lines had half-eaten catfish on them, so he renamed the turtle “Hannibal the Cannibal”. As they continued to check the lines, they noticed one line was tight and heavy, and when they began to pull what was hooked up to the surface, Gunner thought their catch was an alligator the way it looked with the ridges down its back. Bud had to help get it into the canoe. Gunner said that every year at this time when his grandpa has vacation from work, it’s their time together and he loves to do these things. He just didn’t realize that this year he would catch Indiana’s rarest turtle, an alligator snapper – only one other had been found in the state in the last 21 years.

Some friends talked them into entering it in the turtle contest at the Jackson County fair, where the officials realized how rare it was and immediately applied for a rehabilitation permit. That way they could have the turtle inspected by qualified personel to see if the hook that was still in its mouth was causing any harm to the turtle’s health. Indiana Conservation Officer Phil Nale told us the turtle had to be removed from the contest and checked out by qualified biologists and then released back into the wild. I just learned that the turtle would be released in Hancock County if all goes well with the hook removal. Remember, the alligator snapper is an endangered species and a person cannot legally possess them. Below are two video interviews, one with Conservation Officer Phil Nale and the other with the young man who caught the turtle.

Interview with Phil Nale:

Interview with Gunner:

This article originally appeared on indianashogman’s blog on IndianaSportsman.com.

Images Courtesy of indianashogman

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