Woman fishes alligator snapping turtle out of English lake
February 11, 2024 1:49 PM   Subscribe

Woman fishes alligator snapping turtle out of English lake using a shopping basket. The creature, native to the US south, was spotted bathing in a lake in Cumbria by a local dog walker.
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries (48 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
FLUFFY lol
posted by Glinn at 1:53 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


I'd be reluctant to pick one up even with three pairs of gloves on. Maybe with padded ice hockey gloves, but even then I'd be ready to drop it like a hot potato if that head reached around. Good for her for having the knowledge for how to safely catch and transport the poor critter.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:18 PM on February 11 [5 favorites]


Be careful around them. They're grumpy, faster than you would expect, and if they bite you will stay bitten until they decide to let go. Like my wife.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 2:34 PM on February 11 [9 favorites]


That's a tiny one compared to those in my local dog park.
posted by dobbs at 2:58 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


Good lord dobbs. Those could totally take down a small dog.

Kill them with fire. Sorry, have had an experience or two. They are a fucking menace. And will eat all the fish. And bite you, aggressively.
posted by Windopaene at 3:08 PM on February 11 [4 favorites]


"We haven't been able to identify whether it's male or female due to its size – but we're calling it Fluffy for now", Dr Hornby said.

But Fluffy is a great name for alligator snapping turtles of any gender!
posted by kaibutsu at 3:18 PM on February 11 [5 favorites]


I remember reading the 70-year age thing is largely a guess, and some are estimated to be far older. Cool post, but not surprising. People get sick of pets and dump them all the time. These are found even as far north as Chicago, because I have seen them wild around here a couple times. Not sure if they were dumped pets either, or curiosities brought from the southern states, but apparently they can survive the cold winters here. The one I saw was really, really large. The other one I saw looked about the size of the one in the article.
posted by SoberHighland at 3:26 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


Gamera!
posted by vrakatar at 3:33 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


Chicago's Chonkosaurus by Crime Pays but Botany Doesn't.
posted by srboisvert at 3:35 PM on February 11 [2 favorites]


dobbs, that's a common snapping turtle. That's what we have in New Jersey, and they do get frighteningly large. Alligator snapping turtles get can get even bigger.
posted by mollweide at 3:43 PM on February 11 [10 favorites]


What a strange place to find it. Usually cold-blooded reptiles in England end up in the House of Lords.
posted by nickggully at 4:40 PM on February 11 [52 favorites]


On a scale of England to Australia, America is in the middle in the continuum of wildlife striving/not striving to kill you.

Whoever released that turtle should be noted for working to fill a much needed gap.
posted by ocschwar at 4:44 PM on February 11 [4 favorites]


It is not illegal to own an alligator snapping turtle in the UK, but they are not recommended as pets due to their complex needs.

How about it’s not recommended because they’re some of the meanest, ugliest animals on the planet, have we considered that part.
posted by mhoye at 4:54 PM on February 11 [6 favorites]


I remember once seeing city workers trying to deal with a snapping turtle like that had crawled up out of a ravine and landed in the middle of a cul de sac. It was literally as large as a manhole cover.

Nobody wanted (rightly) to get close to it. They were trying to nudge it back to the ravine with sticks. By getting it to bite one of the sticks, they were able to pull it up over the curb, and from there to prod it back down the hill to the creek at the bottom.

It was the most prehistoric-looking animal I've ever seen, and very daunting.
posted by Archer25 at 5:45 PM on February 11 [5 favorites]


Well, at least she caught it with a sturdy net.
posted by y2karl at 6:11 PM on February 11


KILL IT BEFORE IT BREEDS
posted by wenestvedt at 6:19 PM on February 11


bathing in a lake in Cumbria

Is this one of those subtle trans-Atlantic differences in usage? I have seen many a snapper in many a lake, but I would be no more inclined to describe any of them as "bathing" or "taking a bath" than I would be to apply that verb to an actual alligator. Floating, swimming, lying in wait, lurking -- sure. But bathing just doesn't sound like a very snappery activity.
posted by Not A Thing at 6:48 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


Turtle thread! When I was about 12 years of age I would bring 20 pound snapping turtles home on the handlebars of my bicycle to play with and take pictures of. I returned them to the local river after I was done playing with them. I managed to not get bitten. I also had 2 snapping turtles as pets that I raised from hatchlings, I released them into the river when they were 2 years old. They were quite friendly and had learned to eat food from my hands, and they could tell the difference between food and my fingers most of the time (Still have all my fingers). These were Common snapping turtles, not the larger and more aquatic Alligator snapping turtle in the posted link.
posted by GiantSlug at 7:00 PM on February 11 [8 favorites]


Is this one of those subtle trans-Atlantic differences in usage?

Yeah this is a British english vs American english thing. What we call swimming, they call bathing. I think they may also call them swimming baths instead of swimming pools
posted by LizBoBiz at 7:05 PM on February 11


Everyone, including Fluffy, was very lucky that the person who came across him/her knew about these creatures. It looks like a spiky abomination from the dawn of time that could do anyone trying to pick it up a lot of damage, and I would probably have called the police if I saw it in a Lakeland tarn. I'm rather charmed by its fishing method of lying about with its mouth open waiting for something to swim in though.

I assume it was a pet (?) that grew to big and was just abandoned; keepoing them is illegal here. There is already a problem with feral red-eared sliders and such terrapin type things. The conservatory at the Barbican Centre in London has (or used to have) a colony of them, mostly handed in when they got too big to be cute. The gardener I talked to there said they had been very popular when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were popular, and people just didn't realise that they keep growing.
posted by Fuchsoid at 7:29 PM on February 11 [5 favorites]


Someone abandoned one of those on our very-much-not-tropical island here in Puget Sound a number of years back...alligator snappers are always a reliable local news item when they end up where they shouldn't be. (The vet in the article has seen my dog for checkups--and prefers the turtle as less ornery and less likely to bite.)
posted by maxwelton at 7:35 PM on February 11 [4 favorites]


Kill them with fire. Sorry, have had an experience or two.

KILL IT BEFORE IT BREEDS


Why are so many people's reactions, jokes or otherwise, to animals they don't like based in violence?
posted by oneirodynia at 11:00 PM on February 11 [8 favorites]


But Fluffy is a great name for alligator snapping turtles of any gender!
I believe "let's call him Fluffy" is a Harry Potter line used in reference to a three headed guard dog.

Reptile-wise: I'm amazed the creature could be doing anything in Cumbria in February. Their Wikipedia page tells me, diet-wise, that they only occasionally eat human fingers and that they are partial to the odd small alligator as well as to other turtles. Includes a "correct way to lift" illustration, for the brave.
posted by rongorongo at 11:12 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


GiantSlug: whoa. That all sounds so Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Except for the work part. So, did they have personalities?
posted by y2karl at 11:54 PM on February 11


Yeah this is a British english vs American english thing. What we call swimming, they call bathing. I think they may also call them swimming baths instead of swimming pools

Sort of. Bathing basically means being immersed in water, and covers multiple activities; swimming (actively moving), hanging onto the side of the pool chatting with mates, floating around on your back etc etc. If said alligator snapping turtle is just lurking around waiting to take off some fingers, or generally floating about, then it's bathing.

Swimming pool vs swimming baths are more a regional thing, so both are acceptable. Unless they're the public Roman Baths in Bath, where people go bathing.
posted by Absolutely No You-Know-What at 1:32 AM on February 12 [5 favorites]


Is this one of those subtle trans-Atlantic differences in usage?

Yeah this is a British english vs American english thing. What we call swimming, they call bathing. I think they may also call them swimming baths instead of swimming pools


The link is an Australian site, as noted above swimming baths isn’t used all over the UK anymore.

Also I love Fluffy, beauty is in the eye of the beholder!
posted by ellieBOA at 4:26 AM on February 12


Reminds me of the legend of Frank the snapping turtle. [CW: profanity]

Also, I'm not sure the three layers of gloves mentioned in the article is adequate protection. Seems a bit like putting on a thicker coat to handle small arms fire.

As kids none of us were as brave as GiantSlug. Snapping turtles, alligator or not, were given a wide berth. And as an adult... snapping turtles are still given a wide berth. So yeah, wide berths just kind of in general. If you find yourself needing to come up with a gift on short notice for these creatures they seem to like wide berths.
posted by howbigisthistextfield at 5:56 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


dobbs, that's a common snapping turtle. That's what we have in New Jersey, and they do get frighteningly large. Alligator snapping turtles get can get even bigger.

It is not.
Alligator Snapping Turtle
Common Snapping Turtle
Pic of FPP turtle "Fluffy"
Fluffy is an Alligator Snapping Turtle. Alligator snappers do get monstrous in size, but they have to be sub-monstrous in size before they become monstrous in size.
posted by mcstayinskool at 6:13 AM on February 12


What dobbs linked to was a common snapping turtle. Fluffy is most definitely an alligator snapping turtle.
posted by mollweide at 6:26 AM on February 12




Kill them with fire. Sorry, have had an experience or two.

KILL IT BEFORE IT BREEDS

Why are so many people's reactions, jokes or otherwise, to animals they don't like based in violence?


In fairness, killing (usually via a euphemism like "culling" or "population control") is a baseline approach to trying to control the spread of invasive species. If snapping turtles became established and spread throughout UK waterways (unlikely, but with global warming perhaps anything is possible), the implications for native species would be poor.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:55 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Fluffy is most definitely an alligator snapping turtle.

Apologies, misread your original thread post as clarifying the turtle in the article not dobbs.

Alligator snappers kick ass. The largest ever recorded was 250 pounds and was likely 100 years old.
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:11 AM on February 12


Killing is mostly what people do to turtles, because turtles are delicious.

Love turtles, love clean water. Good on them, calling it Fluffy!

There is a 4ft Alligator snapping turtle at the Bass Pro in Gonzales, Louisiana. My friend thought it had to be fake it was so big. But as long as you feed them, they seem pretty happy to act like big rocks
posted by eustatic at 7:13 AM on February 12


Also, interesting to see them listed as invasive, when USFWS has listed them as threatened due to low population
posted by eustatic at 7:20 AM on February 12


Also, interesting to see them listed as invasive, when USFWS has listed them as threatened due to low population

There are a number of species that are threatened or endangered in their home habitats, but become invasive elsewhere. Chinook salmon in Chile come to mind as an example. With climate change I expect we'll see more and more of this (as well as interesting ecological questions around when it is invasive, versus a species simply moving towards and thriving in more hospitable environments).
posted by Dip Flash at 8:13 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


My cycling group stops for turtle rescues when we find turtles on the warm, sunny roads. Here in Ohio, it's mostly woodland box turtles.

But we do find snapping turtles. The usual size is 4 or 6 inches, not too hard to pick up by the shell near the back legs. And I moved a recently hatched one, with a shell the size of a dollar coin -- aww, so cute!

Lifting a snapping turtle

The big snappers are way too heavy and squirmy to easily move by lifting near the rear of the shell. A search found the correct technique (that I hope I never need to try out). Grab the shell directly behind it's head, and lift the rear of the turtle with the other hand. They can't turn their head far enough to reach the center front edge of the shell. For example, the keeper lifting this zoo's 40 pound alligator snapper.
posted by jjj606 at 8:54 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


It seems biologically impossible to be an 'invader', i.e. r-selected, rapid reproductive rate, chemically or ecologically disruptive, while also being threatened for having a low reproductive rate.

It is more likely that this is mere xenophobia, rather than an attribute of the turtle. I agree it could be a pest, and conservation of fishes would recommend its removal, but that is not due to being "invasive."

After all, this turtle was distributed by a person. Seems like effective management lies with changing people behavior
posted by eustatic at 9:00 AM on February 12


It seems biologically impossible to be an 'invader', i.e. r-selected, rapid reproductive rate, chemically or ecologically disruptive, while also being threatened for having a low reproductive rate.

So, with the repeated caveat that I think the chance of invasive spread of snapping turtles in the UK is very, very low, I would disagree on this very generally because a lot of the factors that keep a species' reproduction rate low in its native habitat might not apply in a new habitat, perhaps because of fewer predators and more abundant food sources. If google is to be believed, the turtles can lay up to 50 eggs per year, and if the new environment resulted in high survival rates, eventually that population is going to be quite large, even for a slow-maturing creature like a turtle.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:21 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


We have invasive green iguanas and Burmese pythons in the US. Big egg clutches allow for faster population growth.
posted by ryanrs at 9:25 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


It is not illegal to own an alligator snapping turtle in the UK, but they are not recommended as pets due to their complex needs.

How about it’s not recommended because they’re some of the meanest, ugliest animals on the planet, have we considered that part.


Lethality represents no hill for a stepper among moronic exotic herp lovers stateside, and it appears it's the same in the UK. The more metal the species, the higher its value to the exact set of people least likely to be equipped to treat the animal well, most likely to get injured or killed by it, and most likely to release it into a new environment to ruin life for native species. That's why the exotic pet industry should be rocketed into the sun. If the UK heats up enough, which who's to say it won't in a year or two, then there's no reason why alligator snapping turtles couldn't flourish there. Our Fluffy should never have been taken from his or her home. Please to quit selling animals to idiots.
posted by Don Pepino at 9:59 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


We have invasive green iguanas and Burmese pythons in the US.
to name but a tiny fraction of the kajillian problem species currently racing around thanks mostly or entirely to the should-be-felonious pet trade. Tegus; monitors; lots of other kinds of iguanas, among them the brown iguanas that are driving out the gopher tortoises; many different pythons; lionfish; house-consuming, rat-lungworm-harboring giant African snails; and these are just the ones I thought of off the top of my head, and just the ones that are creating problems in Florida. Hawaii? Oh my God.
posted by Don Pepino at 10:11 AM on February 12


Fun fact: the native range of alligator snappers consists only of waterways that rain to the Gulf of Mexico. More info from the Savannah River Ecology Lab, a great resource for reliable information on herps in the southeastern United States. If you find a snapper (or just about any aquatic turtle) on land it is very likely a female looking for a place to lay her eggs. See them a lot near my house in spring and early summer and usually end up with several nests in my yard (which is on the banks of the aforementioned Savannah River).
posted by TedW at 10:23 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


they’re some of the meanest, ugliest animals on the planet

gosh, do they at least smell nice?
posted by ryanrs at 10:34 AM on February 12


gosh, do they at least smell nice?

Well, they do taste good, which is one of the reasons for the threatened status of alligator snapping turtles in the US.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:55 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


That is a straight-up living dinosaur.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 12:12 PM on February 12


> Alligator snappers kick ass. The largest ever recorded was 250 pounds and was likely 100 years old.

The ones which are larger and wiser don't leave witnesses
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:10 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


they do taste good

Previously: The Great Cajun Turtle Heist
posted by Not A Thing at 3:23 PM on February 12


When we visited my sister's house in Oklahoma (I was under ten years old), my two nephews and I made daily trips to the nearby swamp, about a mile from their house. The boys had made a square boat using 1X6" planks, about the size of a bathtub, which they sealed with tarpaper and mud. Two of us rode in the boat while the other pushed it around in the waist-deep water. Our objective was to catch snakes or check the trotline the boys had strung, so we carried a mellow bucket with us for that purpose. Alligator snappers are hard to catch when they are in the water, but when the opportunity arose, we'd catch one of those, too. For obvious reasons, we took only one snapper per trip.

The largest one we ever caught weighed about forty pounds. When handling a snapper of any size, you carry him by the tail. Only the tail. If you put your hand on any part of his body (except the tail and center of his belly), he will find it and try to bite it off. I have seen a snapper bite through a half-inch twig.

On one trip, I carried the snapper. I had to use both hands because he was so heavy. He found a target on my cut-off jeans just below the fly and grabbed it. No skin was involved, but one of the nephews said not to worry because he wouldn't let go. He was right about that. My sister carefully snipped a hole around his snout with some scissors. We kept him in a large pit in their backyard for a few days. The pit had about a foot of water in it. We brought live croppies and perch to him for a while, then got bored and took him back to the swamp. I declined the honor of carrying him on that trip.

BTW, we also put captured snakes in that pit, but they usually wandered off after a couple of days.

Also, BTW, the town was Holdenville, about 60 miles from anywhere, which in 1953 boasted two main streets and four stop signs. All four stop signs were at the same intersection. The edge of town was about thirty feet past my sister's backyard.
posted by mule98J at 3:11 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


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