A 29.5-kilogram (65-pound) alligator snapping turtle was recently discovered by Fairfax County Police roaming freely near a pond in a Virginia suburb. The noble reptile, later dubbed Lord Fairfax, is believed to be a domestic turtle that was set upon Alexandria, VA, by some “well-meaning pet owners”, according to local officials. Following his reign in suburbia, the reptile, which looks fresh off the set of Jurassic Park, was captured and rehomed to the Virginia Zoo which, judging by the pictures, did not amuse his lordship.
The Fairfax County Police announced the discovery of an alligator snapping turtle in a Tweet on Monday after their animal control division got a call about “a large turtle” on the loose. Not being native to the area, officials from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries claim the most logical explanation is that Lord Fairfax was once a pet.
While a mighty title, it seems Lord Fairfax’s size is not so impressive. At 29.5 kilograms, about the weight of a full-grown dalmatian, the turtle is a youngster that could one day reach over three times that weight. Adult, male alligator snapping turtles usually weigh around 80 kilograms (175 pounds), but some have reached a whopping 100 kilograms (220 pounds). These masterful hunters have adapted a method for luring in their prey so that they can chow down on premium turtle feed without lifting a Lordly finger. When resting on the riverbed with their mouths agape, the turtle’s tongue appears as a bright red, worm-like creature that attracts hungry fish or frogs into snapping range.
In his post-capture mugshots, Lord Fairfax appears more than a little outraged, but the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries emphasized that the reptile actually caught a lucky break in being captured and rehomed at the Zoo. Because they are not native to Virginia, their normal range being the Gulf of Mexico, Texas, Florida, and Georgia, he “would have most likely experienced a slow death as a result of either freezing or starvation."
As a captive animal that was released into the wild, it's not possible for Lord Fairfax to be rereleased as captive animals rarely fare well on their own, having few of the skills needed to survive. Authorities are certain that he wasn't born free as his species aren't native to Virginia, where the common snapping turtle is found, and it's unlikely, despite his title, anyone would've given him a ride from the southeastern United States waters.
That said, as part of the rich tapestry that is 2020's impending threat roll call, an alligator snapping turtle Lord with no respect for zoning laws hitchhiking his way to the wrong part of town barely raises an eyebrow these days.