Are alligator snapping turtles endangered?
Alligator snapping turtles are not endangered in their native range, but there is concern over their decline due to habitat destruction and overharvesting for meat. As a result, some states have banned the collection of these turtles. Despite their popularity as pets, you should avoid handling these reptiles in the wild because they can be dangerous.
They are almost exclusively aquatic, living in river systems, lakes, and wetlands. The species’ range is also shrinking, with decreasing populations in some states.
Moreover, turtles with better habitats are more likely to reach sexual maturity and produce larger clutches. Mating takes place between February and October. The geographic variation among alligator snapping turtle populations is not well-known, but there is a correlation between habitat quality and reproductive success.
In addition to habitat destruction, the alligator snapping turtle is also at risk of being caught in fishing nets. These nets catch organisms the fisherman doesn’t want, and bycatch is a severe threat to the turtle. Moreover, the species is also threatened by chemical pollution from industry. Lastly, siltation from road crossings threatens the quality of smaller streams and rivers.
Why are alligator snapping turtles endangered?
The alligator snapping turtle is an endangered species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has listed it as a threatened species. It is one of North America’s most giant freshwater turtles, with powerful jaws, a spiked shell, and a worm-like tongue. The turtles’ range covers the eastern and southeastern United States. Currently, they are restricted to the lake and river systems.
In some areas, groundwater withdrawals are increasing, reducing the flow of rivers and causing juvenile turtles to become more vulnerable to predators. The decrease in water levels may also affect prey abundance, habitat connectivity, and dissolved oxygen levels.
During the early 20th century, alligator snapping turtles were common in swamps and waterways throughout the Southeast, the Midwest, and Florida. They were particularly abundant in swamps and bayous, but the species has since become critically endangered. In recent decades, the species has been decimated, and its population has declined to only a fraction of its former size.
The USFWS has proposed a rule to protect alligator snapping turtles. While commercial harvest of this turtle is not the main threat, large-scale historical removal continues to affect the species’ population. Additionally, poaching continues to threaten the species, and global demand for turtle meat is unlikely to decrease anytime soon.