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 (70)
  • ElvinaI-del
    11/20/2017 - 06:30 p.m.

    A scientist was in search of a young male alligator snapping turtle, but instead he found a very large and heavy female turtle. He was trying to look for the young male turtle but it never happened.

  • MarianaG-del
    11/20/2017 - 06:44 p.m.

    This article was very interesting. It was about a female alligator snapping turtle.

  • ChloeT-del
    11/20/2017 - 07:05 p.m.

    This article is about the first alligator snapping turtle being seen after 3 decades in Illinois. Chris Phillips, the man who made the discovery, found a male and a female alligator snapping turtle. These are very rare creatures and there is a small amount of them. But since they are so rare and he found two of them, he thinks there is a hidden and secret population of them that he doesn't know about.

  • EvanC-del
    11/20/2017 - 07:09 p.m.

    An alligator snapping turtle is very dangerous and can probably eat you. Kessler is very lucky to find this creature after a long time. I used to have a snapping turtle and it looked exactly like the one in the photo. I hope its still alive.

  • OlivierJ-del
    11/20/2017 - 07:11 p.m.

    This is very interesting and I would never expect anything like this. I can't imagine what other hybrids would look like. This is very surprising.

  • WilliamF-del
    11/20/2017 - 08:23 p.m.

    Wow. If this means that these animals are reproducing and making more its definitely a good things. But i think it was for the best that the battery died because i think they will grow better out of our reaches. We sometimes harm the creature more than we help it. Hopefully it does better by itself.....

  • SarahT-del
    11/20/2017 - 09:15 p.m.

    Chris Phillips, a Natural History Survey herpetologist was looking for a male alligator snapping turtle placed there last year. In alternative he found a female one. 'It gives us hope of reproduction', said a graduated student, Ethan Kessler. Even though these creatures have been found, both scientists are sure what this means. One of them said its 'a hidden population we dont know about'.

  • ChloeR-del1
    11/20/2017 - 09:47 p.m.

    It's called an "alligator snapping turtle" because it's body looks like an alligator and snaps because that's how they catch their food.

  • JasminderK-del
    11/20/2017 - 09:47 p.m.

    The main idea of this article is that a female alligator snapping turtle was found in Illinois, this was the first one that has been seen in 3 decades but it was accidentally found because they were looking for a male alligator snapping turtle but found this female one instead.

  • JadeR-del
    11/20/2017 - 10:02 p.m.

    The main idea of the article is

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