17 April 2014
Mark Grossmann of Hazelwood, Missouri & Belleville, Illinois
It was just typical day browsing on the Internet. A story caught my eye. It was about a Louisiana man named Travis Lewis. When he was outside his home, something caught his eye. At first, he thought he saw an unusually large log in a nearby canal.
But with a closer look, he realized that, what he thought was a log, was actually a giant turtle. A giant turtle. It had a head the size of a football and was about 4 feet long. It was, in fact, an alligator snapping turtle. The turtle was wedged in a culvert – stuck.
What does an alligator snapping turtle look like? Well, let’s just say that a dinosaur could mistake one of these turtles for its cousin. Really, just look at the pictures below.
The alligator snapping turtle is the largest freshwater turtle in North America. It has a spiked shell and a beak-like jaw. These turtles can reach 250 pounds and live for almost 200 years. They enjoy hanging out at the bottom of lakes, rivers, and canals. This turtle has no natural predators other than human beings. The turtle, itself, eats snakes, clams, and other turtles.
This snapping turtle can close its jaw with incredible speed. But, as one article explained, reassuringly, many other snapping turtles have a more powerful bite than the alligator snapping turtle. In fact, relative to its size, this turtle’s bite is no more powerful than that of a human being. The source went on to add, cheerfully, that these turtles can bite through bone.
If I’d seen this turtle in a nearby canal, my next steps would have been to go inside my home, call animal control, and lock my door and windows. But in Louisiana, a giant, prehistoric-looking turtle with a bone-crushing bite inspires a different reaction.
Travis Lewis immediately called for his friend, Martin LeBlanc. When LeBlanc got there, he saw the giant turtle with the football-sized head. Was he worried? No, of course not. His first thought? Dinner.
Yeah, I bet that critter could have fed the whole neighborhood. (Or fed on the whole neighborhood.)
Again, the turtle was stuck – wedged tight in a culvert. The two called a third friend. Did the newcomer call animal control? No way. “Friend # 3,” Louisiana’s answer to Steve Irwin, jumped right into the culvert. The first two followed. Within 45 minutes, the four-foot long snapping turtle was free. Travis casually commented that the group did take care to “stay clear . . . of the business end” of the turtle because “[o]nce it latches on to you, it’s going to take whatever it bites with it.”
A little puzzled by the men’s attitude toward this giant bone-crushing snapping turtle, I did an internet search on the “alligator snapping turtle.” I was in for a surprise.
In the 1930’s, a man named Dale Carnegie wrote a book called, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” If Mr. Carnegie were alive today, he would be studying the giant alligator snapping turtle. Why? Because whatever this turtle is doing, it sure seems to be a hit with everybody.
The first thing I turned up was a set of instructions on how to care for your giant alligator snapping turtle. A little more surprised, I went on searching. What did I find? More care and feeding instructions.
So, you know what’s happening at your local Humane Society? Rover is waiting in a cage, with a dozen other dogs, hoping to find a home. But the Society has waiting list a mile long for giant alligator snapping turtles. Sure. That makes sense. We’re talking about a giant snapping turtle with a bone-crushing bite who seems to always be photographed with its beak-like mouth wide open waiting to take your hand or foot off. Gee, who wouldn’t want to own one?
I used to read stories about the loyalty and heroism of dogs, but I didn’t find anything like that. Instead I found the “heart-warming” story of “Crunch” an alligator snapping turtle. (With that bite, you’ve got to wonder how an animal like this got the nickname “Crunch.” . . .) Anyway, Crunch was rescued from certain death in a commercial fishery and, now, not only survives, but enjoys a comfortable retirement at the Blackwater Turtle Refuge.
Speaking of survival, the rescuers of our Louisiana turtle are planning to release it in a spot where it can roam free. We are assured that the turtle has nothing to fear from rescuer Martin LeBlanc’s turtle soup pot. And you’d need a lot more than pot to cook this four-footer. He’d barely fit in a bathtub.
Best of the Thursday’s