Hello ‘little’ dinosaur! Houston SPCA rescues huge alligator snapping turtle

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HOUSTON — If you've ever wanted to see a dinosaur, in the flesh, up close and personal -- this "little" big guy might be as close as you can get. This alligator snapping turtle, who looks like one of the re-creations on Jurassic Park, was found stuck in a pipe, and has been rescued by the Houston SPCA.

Houston SPCA’s Wildlife Center of Texas received a report Tuesday from a  Fairfield resident exploring a new development near Hockley when he discovered a large turtle wedged in the end of a pipe sitting in a waterway. When the rescue team arrived, they determined it was a threatened alligator snapping turtle. The pipe was dented at the opening, preventing the turtle from passing through, and the turtle was struggling to keep its head up as water rushed over its body.

The Rosehill Fire Department was called to assist and provided the necessary equipment to open the pipe. Although the Jaws of Life could not cut the thick conduit, the spreader widened the pipe enough to enable Dr. Hoggard, veterinarian Houston SPCA, to free the 53-pound turtle. The blockage caused by the pipe resulted in the finding of several more deceased alligator snapping turtles, among other species, which flowed out after the pipe was cleared. The surviving alligator snapping turtle was transported on Houston SPCA’s 24-hour injured animal rescue ambulance to the Wildlife Center of Texas where it will be medically evaluated and treated.

The center is currently rehabilitating one other alligator snapping turtle that was transferred to the organization through its partnership with Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. The 38-pound turtle was found under a car in a parking lot in Bryan-College Station. It had an embedded fish hook and had been stabbed in the top of the head; markings indicate someone had tried to sever its head and both of its front legs. The turtle is currently undergoing rehabilitation at the Houston SPCA’s Wildlife Center of Texas.

Alligator snapping turtles have dinosaur-like characteristics with their spiky shells and primitive-looking faces. They are native to Houston and are one of the few protected freshwater turtles in Texas. The last one the wildlife center admitted in 2013 was the first one recorded in Harris County in over four decades. The state has designated them as threatened with extinction, so once the compromised alligator snapping turtles have healed, the center will work with Texas Parks and Wildlife to release them both into a suitable habitat.