Nature & You: Many misidentify Oklahoma’s common snapping turtle

Nature & You: Many misidentify Oklahoma’s common snapping turtle

Many misidentify Oklahoma’s common snapping turtle

Alligator snapping turtle.

The mere mention of that name spurs no small spark of enthusiasm.

Everybody seems to have seen one.

The experience is discussed in exciting descriptions.

I really hate to be the one that pours cold water on your parade, but I’ve just got to tell you this: We don’t actually have alligator snapping turtles living here in central Oklahoma.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. We do have snapping turtles. They’d be darn hard to miss. Snapping turtles, after all, grow up to be as huge as a pregnant trash can lid.

You have, indeed, seen snapping turtles here in central Oklahoma; it’s just that your species identification has been a tad inaccurate.

A species called the common snapping turtle is what we have here in central Oklahoma. As their name so accurately describes, they are found here, there and almost everywhere.

In stark contrast to this, there is a very rare type of water turtle that is found living in a very select and very few number of locations of the watery world in the far eastern portion of our state. The species of snapping turtle that lives in far eastern Oklahoma is the alligator snapping turtle. This rare species does not live in central Oklahoma.

Scientists are vigorously instituting measures to help the beleaguered alligator snapping turtle. There are some very valid concerns that the alligator snapping turtle might no longer continue to inhabit our state’s streams, rivers and lakes. Obviously, we must not let that come to pass.

The common snapping turtle is a much more abundant species. You’ve seen them. I’ve seen them. Lots of people report having seen them.

It’s a darn shame that the alligator snapping turtle has not fared as well as its close cousin: the common snapping turtle.

— Neil Garrison, NewsOK Contributor

Neil Garrison was the longtime naturalist at a central Oklahoma nature center