A large snapping turtle found by a man near a river in Staffordshire has found a new home in the National Turtle Sanctuary at Lincolnshire Wildlife Park.
The turtle, who has since been named Hagar, measures 51cm by 37cm and weighs in at 4kg. It is believed to have been a pet which might have escaped or been abandoned in the River Trent.
He was found by a man walking with his children near a river behind Asda supermarket in Burton-on-Trent on Sunday, October 11. The man took the turtle home and placed it in his bath before alerting the RSPCA as he thought the reptile could be a danger to others.
The snapping turtle is native to North America and preys on animals including fish, birds and amphibians, but also eats a large amount of aquatic vegetation.
RSPCA animal rescue officer Karen Brannan was sent to the scene and collected the feisty reptile which she named Hagar, before taking him to his new home.
Karen, who believes the turtle may have lived in the area feeding on fish for quite some time, said: “He was a really big and aggressive turtle so I called him Hagar!
“I had to handle him very carefully as he was very angry and obviously this species has quite a bite as well as a very mobile head and neck.
“He had a fair bit of algae on his shell so I suspect he had been living in this area for quite some time and would have fed on fish and small mammals.
“We fear this turtle may either have escaped – or potentially been abandoned. It is a real concern if someone has discarded a pet like rubbish when there are animal welfare charities and organisations which would offer help. An animal like this could have been a real danger to other animals and people as they are capable of such a strong bite.
“I am keen to find out where Hagar came from and ask anyone with information to call the RSPCA appeals line on 0300 123 8018.”
Karen added: “I am just so grateful to the turtle sanctuary for taking on Hagar as an animal like that is not easy to find a suitable home for. They believe he’s approximately 12 years old but they are capable of living to around 100 years – so I expect he has a long and happy life to now look forward to!”
Andy Ferguson, zoo manager at the sanctuary, near Friskney, said: “Hagar is settling in well to life in a seven-metre pool. He is definitely one of our more angry turtles – it is just his personality.
“This type of turtle is capable of a formidable bite and they are known as ambush predators so will hide before attacking for food.
“Unfortunately we have come across cases like this before where they have been found in rivers. They are not ideal pets and have very specific needs.”
It is illegal, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, to release non-native species, such as snapping turtles, into the wild.
Evie Button, RSPCA scientific officer for exotics, said: “Snapping turtles have extremely powerful jaws and should never be handled by an inexperienced person so we would urge anyone who finds one not to approach it themselves but instead to contact the RSPCA or a local reptile expert who can help.”