How an Alligator Snapping Turtle wound up in lake remains a mystery

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Wildlife diversity biologist Chris Simpson and Putnam County wildlife officer Mike Beaty measure the overall length of the alligator snapping turtle. PHOTO: Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is trying to figure out how an alligator snapping turtle wound up in Center Hill Lake.

The alligator snapping turtle was found in the Putnam County area of the lake last Friday. Wildlife diversity biologist Chris Simpson got a carapace measurement of 19.5 inches overall and a length of 48 inches. TWRA said the alligator snapping turtle was fairly decayed and couldn't be weighed. The animal is thought to be male and genetic material was collected for further analysis.

So how did the alligator snapping turtle, which are primarily found west of the Tennessee River, end up in Center Hill Lake? TWRA officials are raising the question to if someone illegally released it there.

The turtles fall under the species of "greatest conservation need," or GCN. Populations declined because of over-harvesting for consumption prior to protection. Alligator snapping turtles prefer slow moving waters with soft substrate.

Center Hill Lake dam was built in 1948 and TWRA officials said the alligator snapping turtle wouldn't have been in the area before the dam was built. However, TWRA officials said the animals were naturally in the Cumberland River system before the dam was built. Officials said for now, the mystery continues.

“Dealing with these situations and cataloging information is truly enjoyable. Any information we can gain on a GCN species is valuable," TWRA said in a statement.

For more information on conservation efforts or to report an alligator snapping turtle sighting, click here.