Invasive Alligator Snapping Turtle Discovered in Oregon, Euthanized

First Posted: Oct 24, 2013 04:48 AM EDT

An angler in Oregon spotted a scary, ancient- looking large creature at Prineville Reservoir. The massive creature was later confirmed as the 'alligator snapping turtle', the largest freshwater turtle.

The officials at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) were immediately informed about the sighting of the rare species. On tracing the reptile they were shocked to see the invasive species. The alligator snapper was captured and finally euthanized as the turtle is an aggressive creature.

"We euthanized it as soon as we got it back to the office," district biologist Greg Jackle told the Statesman Journal. "It's obviously a very large turtle that was not something that we've ever seen over here before."

Simon Wray, an ODFW conservation biologist, believes that the alligator snapper might have been a pet, which was released into the reservoir as it got too huge to maintain. This is the first alligator snapping turtle spotted in the wild in eastern Oregon.

"People get these turtles when they are small and release them when they get too big and aggressive to keep as pets," Wray said. "It's a poor choice for a pet and the environment."

Most often invasive creatures start as pets and in the long run when their keepers fail to look after them, they are dumped into the wild and turn into a threat for the ecosystem. Apart from such alligators, it is snakes and certain turtles that often raise concerns as they are capable of destroying the local wildlife and at the same time harm humans.

With a large heavy head and a long thick outer shell the alligator snapping turtle looks like a remnant of the dinosaur age, hence, they are also known as the 'dinosaur of the turtle world'. They are mainly seen in the southeastern waters of the U.S. These carnivores eat anything they catch. They mainly feed on fish and dead fish carcasses. They mostly hunt for their prey in the night. These aggressive reptiles can cause significant harm to humans especially as their bites are strong and have been known to bite off fingers. They have been listed as threatened species by the IUCN. Some states have imposed a ban on keeping alligator snappers as pets and also they are bred for their meat by some. They can grow huge and weigh up to 220 pounds.

"I'd hate to see these turtles get established in Oregon," said Rick Boatner, the department's invasive species coordinator. "We already have problems in the Willamette Valley with common snapping turtles."

The shell of the euthanized alligator snapper will be added to the department's educational display of non-native species. They take this as a good example to educate the locals about the ill effects of dumping unwanted invasive pets into the wild.  

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