In an astonishing discovery, researchers have found out a wild alligator snapping turtle in Illinois. This is the first time that the endangered alligator snapping turtle has been discovered in nearly 30 years. This discovery could give some hope about the presence of this endangered species, or it might be the last of its kinds to have survived in Illinois without human intervention. This particular alligator snapping turtle was found living in Union county’s Clear Creek.
Recently Illinois Natural History Survey herpetologist Chris Phillips donned dove to the bottom of Clear Creek in Union County, Illinois, in search of a young male alligator snapping turtle which was released into the wild as part of an effort to increase the population of the endangered species. But during his search, he surprisingly found out this rare female alligator snapping turtle weighing 22 pounds. Philips said that he was just about out of breath when he felt the turtle shell. At that time he thought that he had found the male turtle as he knew that it would be there as per the radio signals that he received. But when tried to touch its shell and swept his hand across it he found out that this a lot bigger animal than expected, with a long shell.
After plucking the turtle out from water, he discovered that the female turtle was 15 inches long and was twice as long as the one he was searching for. The turtle was approximately 18 years old. DNA testing revealed that she was from the southern Illinois area and not from outside. The Union County’s Clear Creek is the area where scientists have been releasing turtles because no wild alligator snapping turtles had been found in Illinois since 1984. And finding the female alligator snapping turtle for the first time in that area in 30 years has given hope that, reproduction might be still happening there.
Co-author of the study, Ethan Kessler from the University of Illinois said, “Maybe there is a hidden population we don’t know about.” However, he told that finding this individual turtle does not indicate the presence of a functional, stable population of wild alligator snapping turtles in Southern Illinois. There might be a chance that it might be the last one standing out from its population and waiting for the end of its days.
According to INHS researchers, the population of this state endangered species have declined due to the habitat changes like dams, drained swamps. So, Illinois might be the last suitable habitat for these endangered species. So, more thorough research should be done about saving the wild alligator snapping turtle species. Kessler said that bolstering a hidden population of an endangered species is better than starting a new population in the area. But as no wild alligator snapping turtles have been found in Illinois since 1984, Kessler still feels that a reintroduction effort might be the best option right now.