There are many commonly available domesticated turtles that make excellent pets, including the red ear slider, ornate wood turtle and the painted turtle. These long-lived reptiles are an excellent way to enjoy a little piece of nature for the average reptile enthusiast, but then again, there’s always that one person who thinks that they need to own a “special” turtle to impress guests and to boost their own ego, such as the spectacular alligator snapping turtle.
Weighing in at an average adult weight of 200lbs and stretching out to around 26 inches from beak to tail, the alligator snapping turtle is easily the biggest freshwater turtle in North America. With its triceratops-like beak, long claws and spiky shell, these large turtles are somewhat dinosaur-like in appearance. The alligator snapper is scattered throughout marshes, swamps and lakes in the southeastern United States, ranging from Kentucky, Alabama and parts of Florida to as far north as Illinois. It is a carnivorous species that is famous for the hunting tactic of wiggling its small, pink and worm-like tongue to attract fish. When unlucky creatures get too close to the turtle’s natural lure, the beast clamps down its massive jaws onto prey with a bite force comparable to a spotted hyena’s impressive jaw strength.
You’ve probably realized by now that a turtle that weighs over 200 pounds and that eats by aggressively chomping its huge beak onto food isn’t as cute or cuddly as the red ear sliders that I mentioned earlier. Someone with an alligator snapping turtle is eventually going to need an impressively large enclosure to house the growing reptile and a real commitment to its care, since they can easily live to be between 80 and 120 years old, if not longer! I don’t think that your grandkids are going to be thrilled when you leave “Bonecrusher” to them in your will, but that might just be me.
The best reasons to consider a more traditional turtle friend might just be the alligator snapping turtle’s dangerous beak and its neediness. These turtles are voracious eaters and require a decent amount of meat per serving. Owners give their alligator snappers a selection of chicken, fish and beef for a varied diet, but the smart ones keep far away from the turtle’s powerful jaws. Feeding, cleaning up after and general care for an immensely strong predatory reptile isn’t easy when you’re constantly worrying about losing a hand to your pet!
If you’re one of those armchair herpetologists who is convinced that an enormous, hungry and potentially dangerous alligator snapping turtle is your dream pet, it can be tough for you to legally own one, depending on where you live. These turtles are locally endangered in some states and are absolutely banned in others, such as California, Hawaii and Oregon. Some states, including Florida, require people to buy a permit to own an alligator snapper. Even if you do buy your alligator snapping turtle legally, you’ll want to hang onto the receipt to show local wildlife law enforcement that you didn’t snatch your beloved behemoth from the nearby drainage ditch. Newsflash- Poaching is BAD.
Save yourself the trouble of dealing with an aggressive and threatening behemoth on a daily basis and simply adopt a common pet store variety of turtle. If you really want to get up close and personal with an alligator snapper, try visiting the zoo, buying a fancy gator snapper replica from Safari Ltd, or by taking a barefoot stroll through the swampy marshes of Mississippi. If you need help meeting your new shelled friend, give the Petfinder website a go! Just don’t be disappointed if their turtles can’t take your arm off with a single bite...
*Be sure to check with your state and local laws as far as turtle ownership goes, as the laws might have changed by the time you read this!
Previous Bad Pet Ideas: