Feds protect a humongous turtle species prized by poachers

By Michael Doyle | 06/26/2024 01:15 PM EDT

The turtles weigh as much as 249 pounds and live upward of 80 years or longer.

Beached Suwannee Alligator Snapping Turtle

A large male Suwannee alligator snapping turtle awaits being weighed, measured and tagged before being returned to the tannin-black waters of the Suwannee River. Renee Bodine/Fish and Wildlife Service

The Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday extended Endangered Species Act protections to the Suwannee alligator snapping turtle, a fierce-looking throwback that’s become prized by collectors.

Citing in part the worldwide demand for turtles for both consumption and companionship, the federal agency announced it is adding the turtle to the list of threatened species.

“This listing will further unite the Service and our partners in conserving this iconic species while ensuring those that rely on the outdoors for their recreation and livelihoods can continue their pursuits,” Mike Oetker, Southeast Region director for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a statement.


The Suwannee alligator snapping turtle is one of two distinct populations of the largest species of freshwater turtle in North America. The turtle inhabits portions of the Suwannee River basin in southern Georgia and northern Florida. It is both lumbering and long-lived, with males weighing as much as 249 pounds and adults living upward of 80 years or longer.