This frightening fella is the Alligator Snapping Turtle and the largest (and scariest) turtle that lives in fresh water in North America, and is also one of the largest turtles in the world. Looking like a prehistoric sea monster, it boasts a spiked shell, a jaw that reminds you of a birds beak, thick scaly tale and if you didn’t know better you would believe you were looking at a dinosaur.
You will find Alligator snapping turtles nearly always in rivers, canals and lakes, particularly in the Southern part of the United states, mostly the eastern side, they can and have lived to be nearly 100 years old. The males average about 2 and a half feet in shell length, and usually weigh about 150-175 although they have been known to grow to weigh more than 225 pounds. The (demure) females are much smaller, usually weighing only about 50 pounds.
Alligator snapping turtles use a unique means of hunting for prey. They have a tongue that is worm shaped and very bright red. When lying without any movement on the bottom of a river or lake, they will flick the tongue and draw in curious fish or frogs to see what manner or worm or food this is, at which time they snatch the prey from the water.
As adults, the Alligator snapper has no real natural predator aside from human beings, who often take them for the meat (to make turtle soup) and the shell for adornments. They are also sold at times to exotic animal collectors. They are stable but because of unregulated harvesting and sales of the Alligator snapper, and habitat loss due to humans encroachment on their turf, they are protected in most states, and in nearly all areas where they live or range.