Facebook Photo Of Giant Snapping Turtle Went Viral, But Experts Say, ‘They’re Everywhere’

Experts believe it is an alligator snapping turtle.

A photo of a giant snapping turtle was posted on the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife’s Facebook page. The photo, taken at Lake Eufaula, quickly went viral. Dave Harrell posted the photo of the enormous snapping turtle on Monday and it has since been shared thousands of times. Harrell, an Edmond resident, wrote that he caught the giant snapping turtle accidentally when fishing for catfish with a fishing rod. Catching more than he bargained for, Harrell says Audey Clark of Norman helped him bring it into the boat.

Harrell says he released the snapping turtle back into Lake Eufaula after snapping the picture of the turtle. According to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife, they can’t tell from the photo on the state’s Facebook page if the turtle in question is a common snapping turtle or a more rare alligator snapping turtle, but biologist Todd Craighead told NewsOn6 the turtle’s size is not even close to being a record. “Nothing uncommon,” he said of the enormous snapping turtle. “It’s a big turtle, but they’re everywhere.” Craighead said it appeared to be at least 50 pounds which would make it only a little larger than the average sized snapping turtle. A really large snapping turtle, the biologist said, would weigh about twice that.

Craighead said he believes that the snapping turtle pictured on the department’s Facebook wall is most likely an alligator snapping turtle because of the caruncles at the base of its neck. An alligator snapping turtle, according to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park fact sheet, generally weighs between 155 and 175 pounds. The Bronx Zoo’s website states this snapper can reach 250 pounds. Alligator snapping turtles are confined to the river systems that drain into the Gulf of Mexico. They are generally unseen because they prefer to live in the deep waters of large rivers, canals, lakes, and swamps. In captivity, alligator snapping turtles usually live between 20 and 70 years.

The alligator snapping turtle is not facing extinction, but according to the Bronx Zoo, there is still reason to be careful with the species if we hope to ensure its survival. “The alligator snapping turtle is considered a vulnerable species,” the zoo’s website explained. “These turtles have been heavily trapped for meat for consumers both inside and outside the US. Habitat loss and pesticide use also threaten these reptiles. Every state with alligator snappers has restrictions for hunting them.” Adult alligator snapping turtles have no known predators except humans.