The alligator snapping turtle grows really big and really old. The males can weigh as much as 200 to 250 pounds. They can live for decades.
But they’re disappearing. They’ve been hunted, pollution has hurt their freshwater habitats and it takes a long time for them to reproduce. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has suggested giving them "threatened" status under the Endangered Species Act. That might lead to more alligator snapping turtles and help them survive.
Elise Bennett, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, considers them “the heart of what’s really wild in the Southeast.” She said the turtle could face a 95% decline in the next 50 years or simply disappear and become extinct in as little as 30 years.
We didn’t help in the 1960s and the 1970s when many enjoyed a lot of alligator snapping turtle soup. Though the meat can be full of pollutants, it can be prepared to taste like fish, pork or veal. The turtles almost disappeared then.
The proposed designation could include tougher poaching penalties and recreational harvesting restrictions. Some say the effort to save them should not include exceptions such as killing via pesticide or herbicide spraying, logging and dredging. Even some construction activities that might disturb their habitats could be allowed. The turtle’s protectors want to see stronger regulations.
We’re not sure where the lines should be drawn, but clear and specific guidelines are needed to save one of our state’s wonderful, if plug-ugly, creatures.
We can’t imagine that most people only care about eating turtle soup. We’re certain there are plenty of state residents who want to see the big turtle survive and thrive.