A rare giant Alligator Snapping Turtle was found Sunday on Lake Eufaula, officials say.
Oklahoma angler Dave Harrell was hoping to catch some catfish in Eufaula Lake Monday - but instead he nabbed a prehistoric-looking turtle likely tipping the scales at 100lbs.
Harrell released his massive catch, which turned out to be a rare alligator snapping turtle, but not before posing for a picture that has gone viral.
The snapshot showing a bare-chested Mr Harrell struggling to hold onto to the giant reptile with its maw agape has been shared more than 10,000 times on Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Facebook page.
According to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Dave Harrell, of Edmond, said he caught the turtle while fishing for catfish with a rod and reel. After his friend Audey Clark, of Norman, helped him lift the turtle into the boat, the pair took pictures and then released it back into the lake.
On Wednesday, Jeana Donnell, ODC Wildlife diversity information specialist, said there is no official count on how many of these types of turtles exist, but they are rare and they aren’t found in every lake in a report from McAlester News Capital.
“They are only found in few of our water sheds in Oklahoma and Arkansas,” Donnell said.
“Most Alligator Snapping Turtles are found in the eastern third of Oklahoma in streams, rivers and reservoirs, especially where there is tree cover over the water.”
The alligator snapping turtle that Harrell and his friend caught on Sunday was approximately 100 pounds, but Donnell said they can get much larger.
“It’s common for this type of turtle to reach lengths of 15 to 25 inches or more,” Donnell said.
“Males are much larger than females and frequently exceed 80 to 100 pounds,” Donnell said.
According to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park fact sheet, the turtles are characterized by three large ridges, or keels, that run from the front to the back of the shell. They are unique among snapping turtles for having eyes on the side of the head.
The critters that have been around for some 20million years weigh between 155 and 175lbs, but the Bronx Zoo’s website states that a snapper can reach 250lbs. The animals are carnivorous, feeding on snakes, frogs, any kind of fish and even other turtles.
Alligator snapping turtles are confined to the river systems that drain into the Gulf of Mexico. They spend most of their lives submerged in the deep waters of large rivers, canals, lakes, and swamps.