Raise your hand if you watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a kid. Now, raise your hand if you always believed that a monstrous turtle which eats anything but lettuce was a product of fiction. Well, it seems as though what we only ever dreamed to be an imaginary fiction has been found in Cumbria in North West England after locals reported seeing a fearsome-looking reptile.
A carnivorous turtle with a jaw strong enough to bite through human bones was retrieved from the Lake District beauty spot by local parish councillor Denise Chamberlain. The woman subsequently placed the animal in a shopping basket and took it to a vet.
Alligator snapping turtles, a large species of turtles that this reptile belongs to, are usually found in freshwater in the United States. So when Chamberlain took the animal to a veterinarian, he was understandably “really surprised,” as reported by Sky News.
Alligator snapping turtles are one of the heaviest freshwater turtles in the world and the largest in North America, with a bite force of 1,000 pounds. The reptiles can grow to around 31 inches and weigh up to 14 stone, with the oldest recorded one in history living to around 70 years.
Dr Dom Moule told news sources that he thought the reptile would be a loggerhead turtle or a terrapin: “I did not expect in the slightest for it to be an alligator snapping turtle.”
When asked how the species might have ended up in England, Dr Moule argued that it was probably dumped by an exotic pet owner who hadn’t realised how difficult it would be to look after the creature.
Several EU countries have laws against keeping the alligator snapping turtle without permission as it is an invasive species, with the ability to snap the arm of a grown adult or potentially a child. While snapping turtles are not illegal to own as pets in the UK, they are expensive and difficult to care for.
The animal’s natural defensive mechanism is to open their mouth when you go near them, making them look aggressive and fearsome. The reptiles also present a risk to the local ecosystem because they have no natural predators that could keep their population in check.
Alligator snapping turtles eat fish and mammals that live in freshwater along with vegetation and are mostly active at night when they hunt for food.