Alligator snapping turtle surprises couple on Leaf River fishing trip

Alligator snapping turtle surprises couple on Leaf River fishing trip

PINE BELT (WDAM) - A couple was surprised when they hooked an alligator snapping turtle on their fishing line in the Leaf River.

Alligator snapping turtles can weigh up to 200 pounds, and catching one is pretty uncommon in Mississippi.

"They do still get caught on occasion, we get probably maybe a half  dozen sorts of records per year," USM Biology Professor Carl Qualls said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is thinking about adding alligator snapping turtles to the list of endangered or threatened species.

One reason why the population is decreasing is because people have been harvesting these turtles for years.

"Every time you pull an adult female out of the population, you've now pulled hundreds of potential eggs and offspring out of that population," Qualls said.

These turtles can live up to 200 years old, but that is only if they survive long enough.

"Even alligator snapping turtle starts out life fairly small, many things can eat them when they are that size and they don't have high survivorship till they reach larger adult size," Qualls said.

However, if you do see one while swimming in the Leaf River, try not to mess with these creatures because they have sharp beaks that can tear flesh.

"They are not going to seek us out to attack us it's usually when humans go and mess with them that they do get hurt these guys can break bones they are very strong," Hattiesburg Zoo keeper Hanna Miller said.

Quall said if you decide to hunt alligator snapping turtles, you can only harvest one and it cannot fall under the breeding season months of April through June.

The USM Biology department plans on studying these turtles out in the field at the Leaf River in 2017.