Monday, August 23, 2010

Alligator Snapping Turtles

Ritter Spring's alligator snapping turtle
Melvin Johnson sent me this interesting story from observations he made at Ritter Springs Park, confirming their suspicions that there was an alligator snapping turtle living in the pond.
"Both Kara Warren and I were sure of what we were seeing.  Finally, after some six years of  my trying to get photo verification documentation, MDC has verified from the below photo that there are alligator snapping turtles at Springfield – Greene County Park Board’s Ritter Springs Park."

This makes Ritter Springs Park unique in its natural habitat as it already contains federal endangered gray bats and Missouri bladderpod.

Alligator snappers are rare in Missouri.  They are up for review for the “Concern List” in Missouri as well as being up for review and nomination to the Federal Endangered Species List.  They are a protected species in Missouri.

Alligator snapping turtles (Macroclemys temmincki) are described in Wikipedia as being one of the largest freshwater turtles in the world.  They are carnivores, eating anything that they can catch, including both live and dead meat.  Much like me, they can eat a vegetarian diet when meat is not available, but prefer meat.  The average adult size is around 175 pounds with a 26 inch shell length, although several are known to weigh in at over 235 pounds. 

If you get to Ritter Springs you might be lucky enough to see this big boy.  For a more urban experience look in the tank at the Bass Pro Shop.