Thursday, February 29, 2024
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A member of the world’s largest species of freshwater turtle, capable of biting through bone, has been discovered in the United Kingdom, thousands of miles from its native home in the United States.

The reptile, an alligator snapping turtle, was found by a dog walker in a lake in Cumbria, England, last week and immediately taken to a local veterinarian’s office, CBS News partner BBC reported. Denise Chamberlain, who managed to capture it from the lake using a basket, told the BBC she couldn’t wait to get her hands on the creature and wore three pairs of builder’s gloves to avoid injury.

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Dominique Moule


Alligator snapping turtles are invasive in England, as these “dinosaur-like” creatures are found exclusively in the United States, from northern Florida to Iowa, according to the National Wildlife Federation. These massive turtles can weigh 175 pounds and are known for their spiky shells and, according to the federation, their “1,000-pound bite force.”

“Their powerful jaws can break bones,” the organization explains on its website, “so they should never be handled in the wild.”

Local veterinarian Dr Dominic Moule told the BBC the turtle was an “extremely surprising” discovery.

“At that size, it could give you a nasty bite. But when they get bigger…they can cause damage,” Moule said. “…I’m sure if he stayed there [in the lake] it would be invasive and eat anything in the water.

Despite his aggressive exterior and potential to wreak havoc, Wild Side Vets, the veterinary clinic that took in the turtle, said he was nicknamed “Fluffy.”

“Our colleagues thought they were pretty hideous, but since we have a penchant for the weird and wonderful, we both think they look cute,” Moule told CBS News, adding that he and his colleague Rachael Mork had chosen the name. “…It also tones down that weird, spooky aspect of a creature that looks so prehistoric.”

Moule said his team spoke to experts who thought Fluffy could be between 4 and 5 years old.

“They’re about the size of a dinner plate, or just bigger than my hand,” Moule said.

Wild Side Vets wrote on Facebook that the team believed Fluffy had been abandoned.

“Reptiles are very expensive and difficult to breed,” the team explained. “…Please do not abandon or keep any reptiles in suboptimal conditions.”

On Monday, the BBC reported that Fluffy had been sent to a specialist reptile center after Dr Kate Hornby told the outlet the reptile had not eaten since arriving at the veterinary practice. This lack of consumption may be because Fluffy is “in a state of hibernation due to the colder climate in the UK”, Hornby said, adding that the turtle was “quite muddy” when it was brought and that she could have been in the lake “sometimes since.”

Once with his new keepers, Horbny said Fluffy will be placed in warmer waters to help his metabolism increase. CBS News has contacted Wild Side Vets for more information.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, alligator snapping turtles have “extremely long” tails and are considered a protected species in the state after being heavily exploited in the 1960s and 1970s. The department says “this could take decades” for the species to recover from this period. The animals spend a lot of time in water, according to the NWF, and can hold their breath for almost an hour.

Even though Fluffy is leaving Wild Side Vets, his short time there has proven to be inspiring. The clinic published a poem written by an office staffer’s friend, calling the facility a place “where wild veterans with untamed spirits rise to every challenge, never feeling held back.”

“A snapping turtle, a creature of tradition, brought many stories to the door of the clinic. With jaws like a vice and bright eyes, it attracted attention, a creature of dreams,” we read in the poem. “…Never a dull moment, in the arms of the veterinarian, as he welcomes the strange, with a smile on his lips.”



Note: The content and images used in this article is rewritten and sourced from www.cbsnews.com

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