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OR Press: Snapper’s quest ends abruptly

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Posted by: W von Papineäu at Thu Jul 31 09:58:52 2008  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by W von Papineäu ]  

GAZETTE-TIMES (Corvallis, Oregon) 26 July 08 Snapping turtle’s quest ends abruptly - No home found for the invasive species (Theresa Novak)
A mossy-looking snapping turtle found walking along White Oak Drive east of Corvallis on June 30 has been humanely destroyed after no suitable home could be found for her.
The case is sad, said Susan Barnes, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, but it also is emblematic of the dilemma facing wildlife managers regarding all invasive species.
“I’d sort of hoped (your reporter) wouldn’t personalize this particular turtle too much,” Barnes, who is based in Clackamas, said Thursday. Although it’s understandable that the public might be sympathetic to a reptile that had survived for at least 20 years in the wild, it’s important to look at the big picture when it comes to invasive species and their impact on the native ecosystem, she said.
Snapping turtles are native to the southeastern part of the United States, and they are hardy. Even found in oxygen-deprived locations such as cattle sewage ponds, they are voracious, grow huge and are mean-tempered. Their powerful bite can take off a finger.
In Oregon, snapping turtles’ prey foods might include baby ducks and, more worrisome, the young of the smaller, less aggressive and plummeting population of the native Western pond turtle. This reptile, which used to be common in ponds found in farmland, already is under attack from yet another invasive species, the American bullfrog. To these wide-mouthed and aggressive frogs, the Western pond turtle hatchlings are “like Oreo cookies” — crunchy on the outside, with a soft and tasty center.
Bullfrogs also are a menace to other frogs, including the increasingly rare native red-legged frog.
Still, nobody is blaming the invaders, and Barnes said that ODFW officials tried to find a location for the old, mossy snapping turtle, which weighed more than 20 pounds and was almost two feet long. They’d hoped it might be useful in an educational exhibit about the impact of invasive species.
And just how did this lone female snapping turtle become an invader? It likely had been a pet at one time, captured from the wild back in its native range and brought to Oregon. It may have been released when it outgrew its enclosure or when someone moved or grew tired of it and released it. Barnes said that is both illegal and a bad idea, but people still do it.
Because snapping turtles are so aggressive and have such slow metabolic rates, the turtle no doubt lived for a long time alone, perhaps in a Willamette slough or a pond. She may have been in search of a mate when she went on her last journey and was found along the road.
Her life ended on July 14, when she was anesthetized and then destroyed, mostly probably by decapitation. Again due to their slow metabolic rate, turtles are difficult to humanely destroy using an overdose of anesthetic, which is the most usual method of euthanizing ailing or unwanted pets.
The contents of the turtle’s stomach will be studied to determine what it had been eating, but that analysis had not been completed as of Thursday.
Anyone who finds a turtle wandering far from its domain is asked to take the turtle (avoiding its head) to the nearest office of the ODFW. For more information, on local and invasive turtles, see
Snapping turtle’s quest ends abruptly


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