Oregon wildlife officials want state residents to help solve a slow — but fast — problem: invasive snapping turtles. Beaked creatures have been found in a number of freshwater habitats.
Snapping turtles are more comfortable in the eastern United States. Many are believed to have come 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 omnivorous,” Barnes told KLCC. “They eat anything they can put in their mouths.
“They will directly attack amphibians, snakes, waterfowl, small turtles, potentially. They compete with our native creatures, fish and wildlife, for food resources.
ODFW officials encourage people to report Snapping Turtles in the wild and capture them if they can and want to. Females at 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 high enough and the lid is weighted or secured to prevent turtles from climbing.
Snapping turtles are formidable in appearance and can move surprisingly fast if they think they are threatened. They have no teeth, but have a powerful beak.
As to whether or not snapping turtles can cut off a person’s finger, Barnes said it’s possible.
“Snapping turtles have a very powerful bite. It all depends on the size of the turtle and the size of the finger.
Although it doesn’t happen very often, it is possible for a large snapping turtle to bite off an unfortunate human’s finger or toe. And even if not, the bite itself will be smart.
People can carefully and gently scoop a snapping turtle into a tub or bucket with a shovel, leaving some distance between themselves and the animal’s powerful mouth.
Once captured, people can deliver snapping turtles to their nearest ODFW office during business hours, or arrange a pickup.
Additionally, OregonTurtles.org takes reports here and also provides advice on how best to approach them.
While snapping turtles have been found in several major river systems in Oregon, Barnes says most have been found so far in the Tualatin River watershed.
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