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 that 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 at 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 that has been wearing a radio transmitter ever since scientists released it into the same creek at least a year ago.

Because the water is so murky, Phillips had no way of knowing that he was grabbing the bigger turtle and not the smaller one that was so close that it was ultimately pulled out of the water in the same spot. That leaves both Kessler and Phillips wondering if Phillips was interrupting the kind of activity that a species needs to increase its numbers.

"He (the smaller turtle) had sidled up to her so maybe they were making plans," said Phillips.

Sadly - at least for the scientists - just what plans the turtles were making may never be known 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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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is it called an “alligator snapping turtle?”
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (68)
  • TiffanyW-del
    11/20/2017 - 04:09 p.m.

    This passage is about an alligator snapping turtle spotted in Illinois. This has been been released over an year ago, and scientists found another one, next to the one they released. Unfortunately, fails in technology wasn’t a Kenyan to catch what they were doing.

  • JosephF-del
    11/20/2017 - 04:33 p.m.

    It is called an alligator snapping turtle because it has an alligator shell and the mouth of a snapping turtle.

  • PedroM-del1
    11/20/2017 - 05:17 p.m.

    The main idea of this article was all about alligator snapping turtles.In Illinois alligator snapping turtles were endangered until this random turtle was found. This may be leading to a new discovery of a lost population of alligator snapping turtles. yippee.

  • AngelinaB-del
    11/20/2017 - 06:01 p.m.

    This article is about how an alligator snapping turtle was spotted in Illinois after decades. Chris Phillips, an Illinois Natural History Survey herpetologist made the discovery. The turtle he found was at least 18 years old. Phillips had originally been looking for a young male alligator turtle but instead discovered an adult female. According to Phillips, there may be another alligator turtle out there but they are going to "leave them alone".

  • PriscillaD-del
    11/20/2017 - 06:01 p.m.

    The main idea of the article is that a scientist was looking for a male alligator snapping turtle, but instead he grabbed a female one instead. This was great because they had a chance of keeping a species that was alive for millions of years, alive. Scientists aren't sure what people would say about these creatures. 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.

  • ChloeR-del
    11/20/2017 - 06:06 p.m.

    It is called an alligator snapping turtle because its mouth looks like it is going to snap shut.It is called an 'alligator' snapping turtle because its back looks like the back of an alligator.

  • NathalyP-del
    11/20/2017 - 06:12 p.m.

    The main idea of the article is about a new species. The new species is called the "alligator snapping turtle". This was discovered in 1984.

  • GregoryM-del
    11/20/2017 - 06:13 p.m.

    Scientist went out to find a young male snapping turtle. Instead they had found an adult female. This raises hopes for snapping turtle reproduction.

  • NatalieH-del
    11/20/2017 - 06:18 p.m.

    It's been years since an alligator snapping turtle was spotted in Illinois! Until now, this creature was nowhere in sight. Some think that there's a hidden population that they didn't know about. The discovery was made by Chris Phillips when he took a female turtle instead of his original male one.

  • AnnabelleA-del
    11/20/2017 - 06:26 p.m.

    The article was very intriguing. The article grasped my interests since it was about wildlife. It was very interesting that there may be a hidden population of turtles. I sincerely hope that there is so we may learn more about the species itself.

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