A rare giant Alligator Snapping Turtle was found Sunday on Lake Eufaula, officials say.
According to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Dave Harrell, of Edmond, said he caught the turtle while fishing for catfish with a rod and reel. After his friend Audey Clark, of Norman, helped him lift the turtle into the boat, the pair took pictures and then released it back into the lake, according to the website.
On Wednesday, Jeana Donnell, ODC Wildlife diversity information specialist, said there is no official count on how many of these types of turtles exist, but they are rare and they aren’t found in every lake.
“They are only found in few of our water sheds in Oklahoma and Arkansas,” Donnell said.
“Most Alligator Snapping Turtles are found in the eastern third of Oklahoma in streams, rivers and reservoirs, especially where there is tree cover over the water.”
She said the turtles are classified as a “Species of Concern” because they are rare and because of their low reproductive rate.
It’s against the law to trap, possess, or kill the turtles, according to Donnell.
Meanwhile the Alligator Snapping Turtle caught Sunday was big, but not uncommonly large, she said.
“It’s common for this type of turtle to reach lengths of 15 to 25 inches or more,” Donnell said.
“Males are much larger than females and frequently exceed 80 to 100 pounds,” Donnell said.
She said although the turtle is toothless, it is carnivorous, “They dine on fish, frogs, aquatic insects and other turtles,” she said.
The turtle also goes about gathering its food in a rather unusual way, according to Donnell.
“There is a small, pink projection near the tip of the turtle’s tongue that the turtle can wiggle and use as a lure to attract fish,” she said.
The turtles aren’t dangerous unless provoked, Donnell said.
“I recommend leaving it alone and respecting its personal boundaries.”
JEANNE LeFLORE is a staff writer at the McAlester News-Capital. Contact LeFlore at email@example.com.