Photo courtesy of Sabine River Authority
Alligator Snapping Turtle (Macrochelys temminckii)
The Alligator Snapping Turtle’s population is declining due to habitat degradations and overharvesting for their meat. A fully grown alligator snapping turtle’s only main predator is people.
Scientifically known as Macrochelys temminckii, alligator snapping turtles are found exclusively in the United States.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) considers the alligator snapping turtle a threatened species, and it is protected in the state of Texas. Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is looking into whether the species should also be federally protected.
If an alligator snapping turtle is caught, it should be returned to its habitat, as close as possible to the spot where it was caught.
Current Range Map
While not currently documented in the Brazos River basin, the alligator snapping turtle’s range is immediately adjacent. Therefore, it’s not unlikely there are some of these animals in the Brazos basin.
If you see an alligator snapping turtle in the Brazos basin, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department would like to know. Report the sighting by texting a photo and the location to 281-302-8033. Don’t get too close, though. These animals are large and powerful and can be aggressive.
Alligator snapping turtles live in rivers, lakes, and wetland habitats. These predominately aquatic species primarily spend their time submerged, needing to come to the surface for air about every hour. Males don’t leave the water while egg-laying females only come on land to nest and lay eggs.
The gender of the turtles depends on the average temperature of the eggs during incubation. Low and high temperatures will produce female offspring, while intermediate temperatures will produce male offspring. It takes 11 to 13 years for one to reach maturity. In the wild, they can live up to 45 years. In captivity, they have lived 70 years.
Adults mate in the spring, and eggs are laid two months later. Nesting season is May to July, and each nest can have nine to 44 eggs. They hatch in roughly 70 to 105 days.
TPWD has contracted with Dr. Christopher M. Schalk at Stephen F. Austin State University to perform population and distribution research. If you would like more information about this work, please contact Dr. Schalk. Additionally, TPWD Urban Wildlife Biologists are performing extensive surveying in Harris County.
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