An angler in Oklahoma recently caught a 100-pound snapping turtle. Dave Harrell of Edmond was out catfishing with rod and reel in Mill Creek at Eufala Lake, when he hauled in a big surprise. His catch was a prehistoric-looking alligator snapping turtle, which is the world's largest freshwater turtle species by weight.
Harrell hooked the behemoth, and managed to bring it aboard his boat so that his friend, Audey Clark of Norman, could photograph the turtle before releasing it back into the water. The photo was then sent off to folks at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC), who in turn posted it on their Facebook page.
The species is protected, and has been known to reach up to 175 pounds. It can live up to 200 years old, and records show that the oldest kept in captivity reached well past its septuagenarian years.
Alligator snapping turtles sometimes are confused with common snapping turtles, but the former is larger in appearance. Whereas the largest alligator snapping turtle on record weighed in at 205 pounds, the common snapping turtle by contrast only reaches 35 to 50 pounds in weight.
Alligator snapping turtles have been so-named because keels on their shells give a similar appearance to the ridges of a gator's back. These turtles have incredible jaw strength, as their name implies, and experts advise folks against getting too close to them so as to avoid injuries. It's not unheard of for a snapping turtle's bite to break the skin, or worse -- especially since they can extend their necks further than most folks anticipate.
Should anyone accidentally hook a snapping turtle as large as this, Michael Bergin from the ODWC's information and education division recommends cutting the line and leaving the hook well alone. "That hook inside the turtle will eventually work itself out or rust itself out, and the turtle will be fine," Bergin explained.
After all, no one wants their finger chomped off nor infected. The alligator snapping turtle, interestingly enough, has the second strongest jaw pressure bite of any animal in the world, measuring at 1500 pounds per square inch.
Habitat loss and overharvesting have threatened the alligator snapping turtle. Conservation teams in various states have been rearing them in zoos and releasing them into the wild to help their population numbers stabilize, hence the species' protected status.