In A Nutshell
Reptiles, such as snakes and crocodiles, trigger a sharp fear response in many humans, but turtles tend to be enjoyed by most people. However, the alligator snapping turtle is a truly terrifying exception to the rule. The largest freshwater turtle in the world can weigh over 100 kilograms, and it has been known to use its massive, plate-like beak to wreak havoc on humans. Fishermen have lost fingers to this beast, and one German community is learning that danger comes in a shell after a boy suffered a severed tendon.
The Whole Bushel
Presenting a marked departure from more approachable chelonians, the alligator snapping turtle may reach 100 years in age and weigh in at over 100 kilograms. The animal measures nearly half the size of a human as the largest freshwater turtle on the planet and possesses a prehistoric appearance that has led many to call it the “dinosaur of the turtle world.”
This North American freshwater monster turtle takes down a range of animal prey, including water birds, and attracts fish with a fleshy lure growing out of its mouth. By lying in the mud, the creature remains unseen by prey until it is too late. Alligator snapping turtles are not exceptionally fast, but this shelled reptile’s striking speed is excellent, and almost snakelike as it seizes its victims.
Its power and appearance are not all show, either. Armed with a razor-sharp, hooked beak, the creature is treated with a degree of fear by bathers and fisherman, who know all too well its potential to take off a finger.
Deaths have not been documented, but in an extremely recent and disturbing case, a German town in Bavaria has even emptied a small lake after a boy suffered two serious bites that severed his Achilles tendon from what experts pegged as an alligator snapping turtle. It is believed that the origin of the “monster” was a release into the lake by an exotic pet owner.