Snapping turtles becoming city dwellers as natural habitats are lost

Aug. 27, 2013 at 3:36 PM
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COLUMBIA, Mo., Aug. 27 (UPI) -- Snapping turtles are increasingly moving into U.S. urban areas as their natural habitats are being polluted or destroyed by development, wildlife experts say.

"Snapping turtles are animals that can live in almost any aquatic habitat as long as their basic needs for survival are met," Bill Peterman, a postdoctoral researcher in biology at the University of Missouri said. "Unfortunately, suitable aquatic habitats for turtles are being degraded by pollution or completely lost due to development. We found that snapping turtles can persist in urbanized areas, despite the potential for more interaction with humans."

That interaction should not be a concern to people, he said.

"Everyone has a snapping turtle story, but some are just too far-fetched and lead to false accusations," Peterman said in a university release. "In reality, snapping turtles aren't aggressive animals and won't bite unless they are provoked. So, if you should happen to see one around your property, simply leave it alone and let it go about its business."

Reducing negative inputs such as waste and harmful chemicals into waterways will help restore snapping turtles' habitats, he said.

Researchers looked at snapping turtles living in the Central Canal that flows through urban Indianapolis.

"While we didn't study whether the snapping turtle populations were increasing or decreasing, we regularly saw hatchling and juvenile snapping turtles," Peterman said. "Snapping turtles may not be the first animals that come to mind when thinking about urban wildlife, but if we continue to improve waterways in more places, such as big cities, then the species can coexist peacefully."

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