40-pound snapper turtle found at Montezuma Well

A USGS staff member holds a 40-pound snapper turtle recently found at Montezuma Well National Monument.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey

A USGS staff member holds a 40-pound snapper turtle recently found at Montezuma Well National Monument.

RIMROCK – He doesn’t have a name yet, but the snapping turtle found at Montezuma Well National Monument is now at his new home in the Phoenix Zoo.

According to Linda Hardwick, the Zoo’s director of communications, the 40-pound Chelydra Serpentina has taken a dive to the bottom of the lake in the Wetlands Exhibit where he will likely “stay for quite a while.”

Perhaps the newest member to the Zoo’s family is desperately in search of moisture, as this snapper turtle is believed to be from the continent’s eastern region – from southern Canada to Florida – says Jeff Lovich, research ecologist for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Southwest Biological Science Center in Flagstaff.

Though turtles are aquatic, at some point the snapper turtle will come back to the lake’s shore.

“In that habitat, we have several alligators,” she says. “And we’ve had a Florida Softshell [turtle] there for a while. They give her biscuits during alligator feedings. After a while, we expect him to adapt. But for now, he’s at the bottom of the lake.”

Nobody at USGS knows precisely how long the 40-pound snapper turtle was at Montezuma Well before a volunteer spotted him in the well’s ditch about two weeks ago.

Though not certain whether it was the same turtle which had also been spotted at Wet Beaver Creek, Madara-Yagla believes it is the same because of the size comparison.

Though the Phoenix Zoo is pleased to have a new resident, Foster says this situation could have been avoided.

“Oftentimes people get a pet turtle, the turtle grows, and it becomes challenging,” Foster says. “Then they let it go. That’s not the right thing. It does more damage to the environment.