Oregon wildlife officials want state residents to help with a slow — yet snappy — issue: invasive snapping turtles. The beaked critters have been found in a number of freshwater habitats.
Snapping turtles are more at home in the eastern United States. It’s believed several came to Oregon decades ago as part of the exotic pet trade, abandoned in the wild by their owners.
Susan Barnes of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says snapping turtles have been found in the Willamette, Umpqua, Rogue, Clackamas, Columbia, and Tualatin river systems.
“Snapping turtles are omnivores,” Barnes told KLCC. “They will eat anything they can fit into their mouths.
“They will directly prey upon amphibians, snakes, waterfowl, little turtles, potentially. They’re competing with our native critters, fish and wildlife, for food resources.”
ODFW officials encourage people to report snapping turtles in the wild, and capture them if they’re able and willing. Females this time of year are on land, trying to make nests for their eggs.
Barnes says many can be caught in a large plastic tub or five-gallon bucket, as long as the walls are tall enough and the lid is weighed or fastened down to keep the turtles from climbing out.
Snapping turtles have a formidable appearance, and can move surprisingly fast if they think they’re being threatened. They have no teeth, but do have a powerful beak.
As to whether or not snapping turtles can snip off a person’s digit, Barnes said it is possible.
“Snapping turtles have a very powerful bite. It all depends on the size of the turtle, and the size of the finger.”
While it doesn’t happen very often, there’s potential that a big snapping turtle can bite off a hapless human’s finger or toe. And even if not, the bite itself will smart.
People can cautiously and gently herd a snapping turtle into a bin or bucket with a shovel, giving themselves a little distance between them and the animal’s powerful mouth.
Once captured, folks can deliver snapping turtles to their nearest ODFW office during operating hours, or arrange a pick-up.
While the snapping turtles have been found in several major river systems across Oregon, Barnes says most so far have been found in the Tualatin River watershed.
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