Chicago River kayakers made an impressive shelled friend on May 5 while cruising down the Midwest waterway. While enjoying the spring day, two friends, Joey Santore and Al Scorch, spotted the giant snapping turtle soaking up some sun on a pile of large rusted chains.
In a video posted by Joey to Twitter, the pair express they are blown away by the turtle’s astonishing size. “You look good! I’m real proud of you! You been eatin’ healthy?” Santore praises the reptile. “You know he’s thick but strong,” adds Al.
Indeed, the snapping turtle, christened “Chonkosaurus” by the pair, has thick and stocky extremities, with its bulging belly seemingly evading the shelter of its comparably small shell.
“Great to see this beast thriving here on what was once such a toxic river, but is slowly getting cleaned up and restored,” Joey writes in his tweet.
Joey was out filming a video about invasive plant species on the river for his Youtube channel, Crime Pays But Botany Doesn’t, where the Chicago native educates viewers about plants and ecology. “It was great to see such a large turtle on the river…I even saw a beaver there three days earlier,” he shared.
Sue Carstairs, executive and medical director at the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre, shares that turtles the size of Chonkosuarus are actually not all that rare, though fewer and fewer are reaching similar sizes due to increased roadkill incidents.
To answer Joey’s question, “You ever heard of liquid salad?”—yes, it has. As omnivores, snapping turtles are “very opportunistic in their diet,” shares Carstairs. “They are great at cleaning up dead animal matter in our waterways, but smaller ones will eat insects, mosquito larvae, [and vegetable matter].”
Cottagers might spot one of Chonkosuarus’ Canadian cousins during the warmer months— typically April to October—when they emerge from winter hibernation. In fact, spring is the prime time for snapping turtle sightings because this is when they venture many kilometers onto dry land in search of mates, places to hang out, and in June, nesting sites.
Help protect reptilian friends like Chonkosaurus by keeping an eye out while driving and boating this summer.
A voice from the wilderness
Get The Great Outdoors, our biweekly brief on all things natureSign up here
Related Story Cottage Q&A: Protecting turtle nests
Related Story Wild Profile: Meet the Blanding’s turtle
Related Story How more motorboat collisions are leaving turtles shell-shocked and mutilated