Threatened alligator snapping turtle rescued from Texas drainage pipe

HOUSTON — A 53-pound alligator snapping turtle found stuck in a Texas drainage pipe is recovering after fire-rescue crews freed the prehistoric-looking animal Tuesday.

The turtle was found in Hockley, a residential development roughly 35 miles northwest of Houston, after a resident noticed it wedged in the end of a pipe and called the Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

When the rescue team arrived, they determined the pipe was dented at the opening, preventing the turtle from passing through. The turtle was struggling to keep its head up as water rushed over its body, according to KIAH.

The Rosehill Fire Department was called to assist, and rescuers used a pipe spreader, enabling a Houston SPCA veterinarian to free the turtle. Behind the blockage, there were several dead alligator snapping turtles, among other species, which flowed out after the pipe was cleared, KIAH reported.

The surviving alligator snapping turtle was transported on Houston SPCA’s 24-hour injured animal rescue ambulance to the Wildlife Center of Texas where it will be medically evaluated and treated.

The center is currently rehabilitating one other alligator snapping turtle that was transferred to the organization through its partnership with Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. The 38-pound turtle was found under a car in a parking lot in Bryan-College Station. It had an embedded fish hook and had been stabbed in the top of the head; markings indicate someone had tried to sever its head and both of its front legs. The turtle is currently undergoing rehabilitation at the Houston SPCA’s Wildlife Center of Texas.

Alligator snapping turtles have dinosaur-like characteristics with their spiky shells and primitive-looking faces. They are native to Houston and are one of the few protected freshwater turtles in Texas. The last one the wildlife center admitted in 2013 was the first one recorded in Harris County in over four decades.

The state has designated them as threatened with extinction, so once the compromised alligator snapping turtles have healed, the center will work with Texas Parks and Wildlife to release them both into a suitable habitat.