First alligator snapping turtle in decades spotted in Illinois
First alligator snapping turtle in decades spotted in Illinois This Oct. 15, 2016 photo shows a rare, wild alligator snapping turtle in a creek in Union County, Ill., the first found in the state since 1984. (Courtesy of Eva Kwiatek via AP)
First alligator snapping turtle in decades spotted in Illinois
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A scientist was searching for a young male alligator snapping turtle. It was put in a Southern Illinois creek. It was put there at least a year ago. But he grabbed a 22-pound adult female instead. This raised hopes for those trying to protect the creature. It hadn't been spotted in the area for three decades.

Chris Phillips made the discovery. He works at the Illinois Natural History Survey. He is a herpetologist. The turtle he found was at least 18 years old. He called his discovery a "move in the right direction.” This is in the effort to save the state-endangered species.

The discovery was chronicled in an article in this month's Southeastern Naturalist. It was co-authored by Ethan Kessler. He is a graduate student. He is studying natural resources and environmental sciences. He goes to the University of Illinois.

"It gives us hope that reproduction is happening," Kessler said.

Both Kessler and Phillips aren't quite sure what exactly the find says about these secretive creatures. The creatures have been around for millions of years. This particular turtle was living in Union County's Clear Creek. Scientists have been releasing turtles there. No wild alligator turtles had been found in Illinois since 1984.

"Maybe there is a hidden population we don't know about," Kessler said. He added that it's more likely that this turtle was just the last survivor of what was once a bigger population of turtles. Or, it could have been a hearty traveling turtle. It may have made its way up the Mississippi River.

However it got there, before it was found by Phillips it found at least one other turtle. The scientists know that because Phillips had been reaching for a smaller male turtle. It was wearing a radio transmitter.

The water is very murky. So Phillips had no way of knowing that he was grabbing the bigger turtle and not the smaller one.

The scientists wanted to track the female turtle. But they can’t due to technical failure.

"We put a transmitter (on the larger turtle) but the battery died three months later," Phillips said. "She's in there but there is no way we're going to find her."

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Why is it called an “alligator snapping turtle?”
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • zachh-hol1
    11/21/2017 - 11:24 a.m.

    Its exoskeleton is almost identical to a Alligators.

  • joshuaj-hol1
    11/21/2017 - 11:24 a.m.

    Because its a snapping turtle but the snout looks similar to an alligators.

  • austinb-hol1
    11/21/2017 - 11:25 a.m.

    Because they have a very strong and fast bite like a alligator does.

  • zachh-hol1
    11/21/2017 - 11:25 a.m.

    its exoskeleton is identical to an alligators.

  • jimmyrc-hol
    11/21/2017 - 11:25 a.m.

    I believe it is called an Alligator Snapping Turtle because it has spines like an alligator and is like a giant snapping turtle. If you look carefully the shell is build like a alligator back

  • adairab-hol
    11/21/2017 - 11:27 a.m.

    It is called an alligator snapping turtle because of its reptilian appearance and natural habitat resembling a swamp.

  • haydens-hol
    11/21/2017 - 11:28 a.m.

    An alligator snapping turtle is related to the common snapping turtle. They are more laid back and will bite mostly anything. They are good pets as babies but as soon as they become juvenile they will become meaner. They have more spikes on their back then common snapping turtles. And they also have a beat as a common does not.

    *Fun fact, i seen one this summer when my mom and i were driving around a huge pond.*

    • Brenna-
      12/04/2017 - 02:28 p.m.

      That's awesome it sounds like u had a fun car trip!

  • alexb-hol1
    11/21/2017 - 11:28 a.m.

    It has a powerful jaw for catching prey.

  • sophiaj-hol
    11/21/2017 - 11:28 a.m.

    Its called an Alligator snapping turtle because it gets mistaken for an alligator and is a big snapping turtle.

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