Texas man catches huge alligator snapping turtle and throws it back

alligator snapping turtle

A massive alligator snapping turtle, estimated to weigh around 200 pounds, was caught by a fisherman on a trip to Lake Cherokee in East Texas.

Justin Broomhall, the fisherman who landed this beast, didn’t realize at first that it was a protected species in Texas and then released it back into the lake.

Kirk Clendening, a Texas game warden for Rusk County, told CBS19, “It’s considered an endangered species in Texas. Since it’s protected, you can’t take or possess it.”

alligator snapping turtle
Stock image: close up of a snapping turtle. One of these turtles, estimated to weigh around 200 pounds, was caught by a fisherman in East Texas
iStock/Getty Images Plus

According to a Facebook post from family friend Kristina Ritter, two Rusk County guardsmen came out to tell them about their capture. They couldn’t determine the turtle’s weight, she said, because they didn’t have a way to weigh it at the time.

Alligator snapping turtles are native to freshwater lakes and rivers in the southeastern United States. Males are much larger than females. They can reach up to 220 pounds, but usually reach between 155 and 175 pounds. Their powerful jaws have a bite force of 1000 pounds, more than enough to cut off a human finger.

According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, an estimated population of 360,000 currently exists in 12 states, but without protection their numbers could drop to just 5% in 30 to 50 years.

Alligator snapping turtle populations are now in decline, primarily due to habitat degradation and overhunting for sport and food. They are protected species in every state where they are found, but scientists have lobbied to have the turtles officially listed as endangered.

In 2016, the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity won a legal battle against the US Fish and Wildlife Service, forcing them to determine by 2020 whether the alligator snapping turtle will qualify for protection under the Endangered Species Act. In late 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to protect the Alligator Snapping Turtle under the Endangered Species Act as a threatened species. This proposal is still pending.

“Alligator snappers are some of the fiercest and most savage creatures in the Southeast, but overharvesting and habitat destruction have put their lives on the line,” Center for Biological Diversity attorney Elise Bennett said in a statement. a press release in November 2021. “These freshwater giants will have a real chance of surviving and recovering with the help of the Endangered Species Act and its vital protections.”

After snapping a few photos with the beast, Broomhall made sure the turtle was free of all hooks and fishing gear before letting it swim free.

“I’ve seen a bunch of people leave hooks and ropes in the water and see fish, snakes drown in it,” Broomhall told CBS19.

“On TikTok and Facebook everyone was saying it was photoshopped. I’m telling you in all honesty it was the biggest turtle I’ve ever seen.”

Newsweek contacted the fiancée of Justin Broomhall and Kristina Ritter.

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