Man Holding Snapping Turtle Swiftly Reminded Why We Should Leave Wildlife Alone


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer


A common snapping turtle. Dakota L./Wikimedia Commons; CC BY-SA 3.0

A man spots a snapping turtle along the shoreline of Burlington, Massachusetts. He picks it up. You’ll never guess what happens next.

That’s right: they become the bestest of friends. They join a band together, before leaving and deciding to start their own. They call themselves the Snapdragons. The guy’s on bass, and the turtle is – obviously – the lead singer. They tour the world, get their own Wikipedia page, and their lead single, Reptilian, shoots straight to the top of the Billboard Hot 100. They become legends.


At least, in an alternate reality they do. In this universe, what you expected is exactly what happened. Clearly irritated at the fact that a strange human is picking it up, the snapping turtle, unsurprisingly, snaps its jaws shut on the man’s face. Per the Metro, he recoils in pain, seemingly bemused at the clamp’s accuracy after its previous snaps – aimed at his arms – failed to reach their target.

Herein layeth the lesson: do not touch the goddamn wildlife. It’s not a toy for you to play with, nor a pet just waiting for an owner. Even just getting too close to animals can lead to their deaths, or, if you’re particularly unlucky, your own demise.

Even having good intentions often has negative consequences. Whether it’s a stranded dolphin or a seemingly abandoned bison youngling, you should leave things to wildlife experts and officials. Don’t assume that you know what you’re doing, or that what you're doing isn’t in any way disruptive. Wildlife isn’t Pokemon.

Snapping turtles, by the way, are amazing creatures, featuring two genera, Macrochelys and Chelydra, with one living species in the first and three in the second. They have an evolutionary history of around 90 million years and, as effused by the National Audubon Society, they have “witnessed the drift of continents, the birth of islands, the drowning of coastlines, the rise and fall of mountain ranges, the spread of prairies and deserts, the comings and goings of glaciers.”


Assuming the turtle is indeed a snapping version and not another sort, both the alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii) and the common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) are both possible candidates here. Based on the location and the video itself, it appears the one in the video is the common variety. (Easily the best fact about said snapping turtle is that, per Arkive, its extremely varied diet “makes it a somewhat flatulent species.”)

Picking up the famously aggressive common snapping turtle is a daft thing to do as is, and holding it by the tail, as the man in the video does, can cause serious harm. You of course shouldn't pick up any turtles, several of which are listed as "vulnerable" or "endangered".


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