There’s a sizable reward awaiting anyone who turns in an alligator snapping turtle poacher—if it leads to conviction in Texas. According to the San Antonio Express-News, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department already offered $1,000 for tips that net turtle poachers but recently doubled the purse from $1,000 to $2,000.
It is illegal to kill alligator snapping turtles in Texas. The species, found in primarily in the southeastern U.S., is the largest freshwater turtle in North America. They were proposed for federal protection as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2021. Over-harvest and habitat loss in bottomland hardwood forests have driven the population’s decline in modern times.
“The high survivorship and long lives of adults makes populations of alligator snapping turtles very sensitive to the removal of even a small number of breeding adults,” said Paul Crump, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department herpetologist, in a new release. “That is why Texas prohibited the collection of this species back in the ‘80s and why we need the help of Texans who work and spend time on the rivers in East Texas to reduce poaching. We want to keep these species around to help maintain our healthy rivers and streams.”
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The 200-pound native turtle—which sports three rows of spiked ridges on its shell similar to the back of an alligator—helps marine ecosystems in many ways. It keeps fish populations in check, eats dead animals, and grows algae on its back. It is an apex predator that attracts prey with a narrow tongue that’s easily mistaken for a worm, and it can hold its breath underwater for 50 minutes.
Texas is using funds garnered through its Conservation License Plate program to increase the bounty on convicted gator-snapper poachers. It also asks the public to report sightings of alligator snapping turtles by uploading location information and photos to its citizen science database.
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