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 at least a year ago. But he grabbed a 22-pound adult female instead. This raised hopes for those trying to protect a creature that hadn't been spotted in the area for three decades.

Chris Phillips made the discovery. He is an Illinois Natural History Survey herpetologist. The turtle he found was at least 18 years old. He called his discovery a "move in the right direction" 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 of natural resources and environmental sciences. He goes to the University of Illinois.

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

Still, 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 because 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 that somehow 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 on the day Phillips reached down and grabbed the female turtle he thought he was reaching down for a smaller male turtle. It had been wearing a radio transmitter ever since scientists released it into the same creek at least a year ago.

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 as well, but can’t thanks to a failure in technology.

"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

  • 24smdrie
    11/28/2017 - 10:34 a.m.

    Why is this turtle called the alligator turtle? Well maybe because they have some distinction to alligators. An alligator and a turtle could have some relationship between each other, other than looking alike. Like how alligators are in the family of snakes and turtles. Maybe they could have possibly breed together in the past and started this new species. I don't really know.

  • 24rgbeau
    11/28/2017 - 10:36 a.m.

    I really like this story because they actually found the alligator snapping turtle that they were looking for. If I were to look for the snapping turtle i'd be scared because I would feel that the turtle would find me and eat me.

  • John-E2
    11/29/2017 - 11:08 a.m.

    I think it is cool that they found a female snapping turtle after not seeing one util now witch was three decades ago.

    my opinion was that it was good because I like turtles.

  • kinniel-orv
    11/29/2017 - 02:38 p.m.

    This so cool. I live in Illinois, but I wish I saw one. Now I'm wondering, WHY? This is a cool species and I hope more people see it.

  • 24tatack
    11/30/2017 - 10:26 a.m.

    This was a very cool article. The alligator snapping turtle looks massive and very strong. I think it is called an alligator snapping turtle because it is very big like an alligator. It also looks similar to an alligator. I hope these creatures can find a way to increase there population.

  • Charlotte-E2
    11/30/2017 - 11:54 a.m.

    I think that this is super cool. They found the first alligator snapping turtle in three decades. This turtle was a large female and because the water was murky there was no way of knowing if this was a big or small turtle. They said she was about 18 years old.

  • JonahM-par1
    12/01/2017 - 09:42 a.m.

    it was very good for conservationists who hope to keep this turtle around

  • DylanF-par1
    12/01/2017 - 09:47 a.m.

    To me, this article was very interesting

  • veruanikkan-cel
    12/01/2017 - 12:27 p.m.

    The alligator snapping turtle is given that name because of its immensely powerful jaws and long, spring-like neck, as well as distinct ridges on its shell that are similar in appearance to the skin of an alligator.

  • kirshaunm-orv
    12/01/2017 - 12:33 p.m.

    They call it an "Alligator snapping turtle" because an alligator and a turtle made a unknown species. Just kidding! It looks like a turtle, but snaps like a alligator. This is crazy that they found it in Illinois! That's where I live.

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