A photo of two anglers’ large snapping turtle is making waves online after the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation posted it to Facebook on May 13. The picture of the estimated 100-pound alligator snapping turtle was sent in by two anglers who, for a brief time, kept the creature on their boat as a guest.
“While catfishing we caught and released this yesterday in Mill Creek at Eufala lake,” wrote the fishermen. “Dave Harrell of Edmond caught it on a rod and reel and Audey Clark of Norman secured it and hauled it into the boat for pictures. It is the biggest one we had ever seen.”
Snapping turtles are not uncommon in Oklahoma and can be recognized easily by their sawtooth tail, large size, and distinctive jaws. Alligator snapping turtles, however, such as the one caught by Harrell and Clark, are much less frequently seen. Commonly called loggerheads, alligator snapping turtles can weigh upwards of 200 pounds. Common snapping turtles usually only clock in between 15 to 35 pounds, although heavier specimens have been reported.
“They were extirpated from most of northeast Oklahoma and are currently the subject of reintroduction efforts,” Tulsa Zoo’s reptile expert Barry Downer told Tulsa World.
Downer says that seeing a loggerhead in the wild is unusually rare. Most sightings in Oklahoma are usually of common snapping turtles, which look very similar but are much smaller. So far, only 300 loggerheads have been released into the state by wildlife officials.
Their large size and fearsome jaws have inspired many stories of these turtles biting and even killing humans, yet this is largely untrue. Many would be surprised to learn that these turtles bite with about the same force that humans do. However, experts still warn people to be careful in how they handle alligator snapping turtles, as they have been documented to bite clean through fingers or even a broomstick handle. A large loggerhead should be held by the shell just behind the head and the tail.
In April, two Louisiana men also discovered a massive alligator snapping turtle in Baton Rouge and rescued it from a drainage canal.
Image courtesy Dave Harrell/Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation