Alligator Snapping Turtle



     Known as the dinosaur of the turtle world, the Alligator Snapping Turtle is the largest freshwater turtle in the world.  Native to the southeastern United States from Florida to Texas and north in the Mississippi River Valley to Iowa and Indiana, the Alligator Snapping Turtle is found in the deepwater areas of lakes, swamps, bayous, canals, and rivers that drain into the Gulf of Mexico.  They average in size from 70 to 150 pounds with the carapace (upper shell) reaching 30 inches in length.  The largest individual turtle ever documented was a 236-pounder, but there are legends of much larger individuals, including one that reportedly weighed over 400 pounds!  They are long-lived, believed to live well over 100 years. 

     Unlike the Common Snapping Turtle, which has its eyes on top of its head, the Alligator Snapping Turtle has its eyes on the sides of its extremely massive head.  It has a strong, hooked beak and very long tail which is slightly prehensile in very young individuals.  The head, neck, and front legs are covered with fleshy projections of the skin.  The carapace has three rows of prominent keels and is usually covered in algae growth, which helps camouflage the turtle.  Almost totally aquatic, Alligator Snapping Turtles can stay submerged for up to 50 minutes, but they usually come up for air every 15 to 20 minutes.

     Alligator Snapping Turtles mate in the spring and lay eggs in the summer, with the young hatching in the fall.  They lay from 8 to 52 eggs in a nest dug in the sand about 55 yards from the shore.  The incubation temperature determines the sex of the young.  High and low temperatures yield more females while moderate temperatures yield more males.  They reach sexual maturity in 11 to 13 years.

     Being an omnivore, the Alligator Snapping Turtle is both a scavenger and an active hunter.  Its diet consists of just about anything it can find or catch such as carrion, fish, smaller turtles, aquatic plants, snakes, frogs, clams, snails, worms, crayfish, fruit, and even small alligators.  It is mainly nocturnal, when it actively moves around searching for food.  During the day, it passively hunts by lying still on the bottom of the body of water with its mouth wide open.  In the bottom of its mouth, it has a small, pink, worm-like lure, which it wiggles to attract fish.  The fish, believing the lure to be a worm, comes close and is caught with lightning speed in the powerful jaws of the turtle.

     Just as the Alligator Snapping Turtle attracts fish to their doom with its worm-like lure, so Satan attracts souls to their doom with worldly allurements.  “Satan invents earthly allurements, that the carnal mind may be placed on those things which cannot elevate and refine and ennoble.”  Testimonies, vol. 4, 581.  “He who is not blind to the attraction of worldly honors, indifferent to threats, and unmoved by allurements will be, all unexpectedly to himself, overthrown by Satan’s devices.”  Ibid., 544.  “The temptations by which Christ was beset in the wilderness—appetite, love of the world, and presumption—are the three great leading allurements by which men are most frequently overcome.”  Ibid., 576.  “If the frivolous and pleasure-seeking will allow their minds to dwell upon the real and true, the heart cannot but be filled with reverence, and they will adore the God of nature.  The contemplation and study of God’s character as revealed in His created works will open a field of thought that will draw the mind away from low, debasing, enervating amusements.”  Ibid., 581. 

David Arbour