A “dinosaur of the turtle world” was spotted in Virginia over the summer.
A 65-pound alligator snapping turtle was repeatedly seen walking in a residential part of Alexandria, Va., during May and June, prompting local residents to call wildlife officials about the prehistoric-looking reptile.
In a June 15 Facebook post, the Fairfax County Police Department noted its Animal Protection Police unit was surprised when they showed up and spotted the massive turtle. The photos recently went viral.
The alligator snapping turtle seen with members of the Virginia Dept of Wildlife Resources. (Credit: Meghan Marchetti/DGIF)
“Alligator snapping turtles are not native to our area and it’s believed this was a captive-bred turtle that was released into the wild,” the police department wrote in the post. “The turtle was safely captured by the APP and transported temporarily to the Fairfax County Animal Shelter. The county’s Wildlife Management Specialist arranged [the] transfer of the turtle to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF). The turtle has now found a new home at the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk.”
The turtle was eventually transferred to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, according to a Facebook post from the government agency.
The agency named the turtle Lord Fairfax before it was eventually transferred to its permanent home at the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk, where it was renamed Yidaro, the zoo said on its website.
(Credit: Virginia Dept. of Wildlife Resources)
In August, several alligator snapping turtles were captured by researchers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Often referred to as the “dinosaur of the turtle world,” according to National Geographic, alligator snapping turtles are the largest freshwater turtles in North America. They have a spiked shell, a beaklike jaw and a “thick, scaled tail.”
Native to the Gulf of Mexico, they can live to be between 50 and 100 years old. Males can weigh 175 pounds on average, though some have exceeded 220 pounds, National Geographic added.
Alligator snapping turtles have no natural predators, except for humans. Their population numbers have dwindled in recent years because of “unregulated harvesting and habitat loss.”