Crook County

Alligator snapping turtle found at Prineville Reservoir

First found in the wild east of Cascades; likely was a pet

PRINEVILLE, Ore. - The first alligator snapping turtle found in the wild in Eastern Oregon was removed from Prineville Reservoir last week, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said Monday.

The species, which is native to the southeastern U.S.,, is considered invasive in Oregon, officials said. It can be very aggressive and eats primarily native fish but can capture other animals such as ducklings.  And it is a safety hazard to people — it has quite a bite.   

According to Simon Wray, ODFW conservation biologist, it was probably released into the reservoir by someone who kept it as a pet.

"People get these turtles when they are small and release them when they get too big and aggressive to keep as pets," he said. "It's a poor choice for a pet and the environment."

Rick Boatner, ODFW invasive species coordinator, said alligator snapping turtles are rare in the western part of the state, but have been reported: "I'd hate to see these turtles get established in Oregon. We already have problems in the Willamette Valley with common snapping turtles."

If you see an alligator or common snapping turtle, contact your local ODFW office. If you have an unwanted pet turtle, contact ODFW so it can be humanely euthanized and kept out of Oregon's waters.

An angler fishing on Prineville Reservoir reported the non-native turtle to ODFW and biologists captured it the following day. The alligator snapping turtle (Marcroclemys temminckii) is the largest freshwater turtle in North America and can grow to 250 pounds.

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