‘Look at that beast’: This well-fed snapping turtle is a conservation success story

This plump snapping turtle was spotted relaxing along a Chicago waterway.
This plump snapping turtle was spotted relaxing along a Chicago waterway. Copyright Joey Santore via AP
Copyright Joey Santore via AP
By Angela Symons with AP
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A video of a giant snapping turtle has gone viral after a pair of botanists posted it online.


Footage of a plump snapping turtle relaxing along a Chicago waterway has gone viral after the man who filmed the well-fed reptile marveled at its size and nicknamed it “Chonkosaurus."

Joey Santore was kayaking with a friend along the Chicago River last weekend when they spotted the large snapping turtle.

He posted a jumpy video of the turtle on Twitter, labelling it the “Chicago River Snapper aka Chonkosaurus.”

In the video, Santore can be heard sounding stunned by the size of the turtle, which displays folds of flesh extending well beyond its shell.

“Look at this guy. We got a picture of this most beautiful sight. Look at the size of that ... thing," he says, using an expletive. “Look at that beast. Hey, how ya doing guy? You look good. You're healthy.”

Santore posted the footage on his educational comedy Youtube cannel, 'Crime Pays But Botany Doesn't'.

Is the turtle sighting unusual?

Chris Anchor, the chief wildlife biologist with Forest Preserves of Cook County, said the snapping turtle Santore filmed is quite rare, considering its apparent size. He said it’s also unusual for the reptiles to be seen basking along rivers, but it probably recently emerged from hibernation.

“So my guess is that this animal had crawled out of the river to try and gather as much heat as it could in the sunshine,” Anchor told Chicago's WMAQ-TV.

While it's difficult to determine exactly how large the turtle is from the video alone, Anchor called it "a very large individual.” And he noted that snapping turtles are not picky eaters.

“Turtles this big will consume anything they can get their mouth around,” he said, adding that anyone encountering a snapping turtle should not disturb it or try to catch it.

“Enjoy it. Leave it alone,” Anchor said.

Chonkosaurus is a conservation success story

Santore and his friend Al Scorch originally embarked on their kayak journey to document the plants along the Chicago River. 

Conservationists have been carrying out native plant restoration along the waterway to combat invasive European species that have cropped up.

"This beautiful waterway has a lot of nature coming back," Scorch told Chicago's WGN News.

The pair were surprised to see a turtle this large.

"The plants and the animals are interrelated - if one is doing well, the other's doing well, it's ecology," Scorch continued.

Nonprofit organisation Friends of the Chicago River has been working to improve the health of the river since 1979. This includes securing safe movement for urban wildlife by positioning the watershed as a connectivity corridor and restoring habitat.

The waterway and its banks are home to more than 70 species of fish and 272 species of birds, as well as snapping turtles, rattlesnakes, blue-spotted salamanders, bobcats, coyotes, groundhogs, otters and more.

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