Assault turtles... (very painful incident included...)


May 9, 2003, 11:30 PM
Out There: The trouble with turtles

You might think these animals are innocent enough, but you had better watch out; they can inflict serious pain and cause quite a panic

By Keith "Catfish" Sutton

Special to

The common snapper has a mug only a mother could love — and a bite that is even more notorious.

Politicians are trying to fight crime by making it illegal to own various types of firearms. So far, the stumpers haven't tried banning turtles. But it's only a matter of time.

Consider the plight of Tony Brewer in Balch Springs, Texas. Brewer was in a phone booth when two men approached, shoved a snapping turtle in his face and said, "Don't move or you're gonna get bit."

No doubt Mr. Brewer was familiar with the adage, "When a snapper clamps down, it won't let go till it thunders."

He gave the scoundrels $50, and they made their getaway.

Another snapper assault took place in Moon Township, Pa.

A man who was distraught because his girlfriend broke up with him, chased her around with a large snapping turtle. Fortunately, this turtle wasn't loaded. The man caught the woman, but the turtle wouldn't bite.

The lady called police. When officers arrived, they deturtled the guy and arrested him for — no kidding — "assault with a reptile."

Pennsylvania lawmen were edgy following that incident.

When Don Lauver, a wildlife officer with the state Fish and Boat Commission, arrived at a West Goshen Township housing development to investigate a disturbance caused by a "trespassing" snapper, residents told him policemen left the scene when the turtle snapped at one officer and he used his pepper spray on it with no effect.

The assault-minded turtle could have been handed a death sentence.

"It was already peppered and ready for soup," Lauver said. Instead, the wildlife officer transported the turtle to a public lake and released it.

Catch-and-release shouldn't be practiced with snappers, however. Not according to police in Munich, Germany.

When a man showed them a photograph of a large snapping turtle he discovered in Dornach Lake there, the constabulary banned swimming in the lake and issued a warning.

Two weeks passed as police, firemen and fishermen frantically searched for the reptile, fearful, no doubt, it could fall into the hands of ne'er-do-wells.

The monster finally was wrestled ashore by a passer-by and handed over to Munich University's Zoological Institute. "His jaws could have severed a human's arm or leg," said a Munich police spokesman.

Or worse.

Several news sources reported on Dayle Nisi's horrible encounter with a snapper-turned-vicious.

Nisi and his fiancée were skinny-dipping in a New York lake when … well, let's use Nisi's own words. "…I felt this excruciating pain in my groin, and when I got my bearings, I realized a turtle had bitten my testicles and swam away with them. It's not a nice feeling; I'll tell you that."

Wildlife officers in Roseville, Minn., surely were unaware of this incident when they "saved" an 80-year-old snapper with a golf ball in its throat.

Was the turtle really after golf balls? I doubt it. And what evidence do we have that ball-eating turtles can be rehabilitated anyway?

And what of the two-headed snapping turtle that resided at the Science Museum of Minnesota? Had this snapper been allowed to roam free in public waters, no man could ever feel safe again. Snapping turtles reputedly live more than 100 years.

Such was not the case, however. The double-barreled turtle was turned over to museum officials shortly after it hatched. In a twist of irony, it became part of a popular display called "Nature's Accident," the same nickname some gave to the unfortunate Dayle Nisi.

Did anyone worry that some "gone-postal" man hater could spring the two-headed turtle and release it where it might wreak havoc on the male gender? Apparently not, and we needn't worry that snapper will threaten our manhood; it died July 7 and July 8, 1977.

I must confess that for several years I had in my possession a magnum turtle — an 87-pound alligator snapper that would have severed, well, anything it wanted had it bitten a skinny-dipper.

This was in the 1970s though, long before I was aware that snappers have a propensity for eating one's family jewels, and years before I knew a snapper in the wrong hands can traumatize hapless victims of turtle assaults.

This particular reptile went by the unimaginative name of Turtle. He came to me from a fisherman who caught him on a trotline.

I was a park naturalist, and the man was under the impression that such turtles were endangered and the creature should be turned over to the proper authorities. He gave it to me, nevertheless.

I knew alligator snappers weren't endangered. Eleven had been brought to me that summer alone. And being the naïve soul I was, I released them all in a nearby river. All except the few I turned into bowls of turtle soup.

Turtle was different, though. For one thing, he was much larger than the other turtles. So I decided to keep him.

He lived next to my refrigerator beneath my bed. (Alligator snappers, I learned, do not need water in which to survive. And, yes, my refrigerator was beside my bed.)

When a visitor came, my friends and I found it sporting to send the unsuspecting newcomer to the fridge for a brew.

When the door opened, Turtle made an impromptu appearance, raising himself on his forelegs and hissing loudly at the intruder. Needless to say, we didn't make many new friends that way.

Turtle, like other snappers, thrived on a diet of carrion. Leftover Spaghettios. Ripened bologna. Potato skins. Fish heads. Chicken bones. No matter what you put before him, he ate it. He was a living garbage disposal, and loved the job.

"You could make a lot of money off that turtle," a friend told me. "The police use them to find drowning victims. They tie 'em on a line, and the turtle will lead 'em to the decomposing body every time.

"Only problem is, the embalmer has to figure out how to hide the chunks the turtle bites out of the corpse."

I never subjected Turtle to such humiliation. Two years after I acquired him, we had a beer bust down at the river to celebrate his release.

Turtle swam away, and, as far as I know, he's still living somewhere in Arkansas' St. Francis River. If you ever swim there, wear a steel jock strap.

I thought about Turtle while shooting photos recently in a tupelo swamp.

While there, I encountered a dozen common snappers, including one impressive specimen that weighed at least 30 pounds. He was a tyke compared to Turtle, but I couldn't resist setting the self-timer and snapping our portrait together.

That snapper would have made a darn good soup, but when I held him up by the tail, he had his eyes on my crotch. I figured it was safer not to tote him back to my van.

I haven't told anyone where I found all those snappers. If I did, could any of us feel safe?

What if some depraved individual fenced a snapper for a few bucks to buy drugs? That reptile might find its way to some street gang that could use it in a drive-by snapping at a rival gang. Innocent people could get hurt.

Imagine the horror if some toddler got hold of Dad's assault turtle?

That's not to say I'm advocating the confiscation of all snapping turtles. No, indeed.

Crime is committed by the lawless, not the lawful. Law-abiding citizens should not be deprived of their right to keep and bear turtles.

They can take my snapper from me when they pry my cold, dead hands from around its shell.

To contact Keith Sutton, email him at can just hear the sound of knees slamming together after reading Mr. Nisi's sad story...

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Navy joe
May 9, 2003, 11:44 PM
Finally, a writer with humor. I just knew when I read the title that somebody was going to lose something precious, our skinnydipper did not disappoint.

I absolutely cannot get the image out of my head of Charlton Heston doing the cold dead hands thing with a turtle held aloft as the turtle pees on him... :banghead:

4v50 Gary
May 11, 2003, 04:34 PM
Use to have a snapper here in the Bay Area. Before he was taken away, I'd toss him pigeon chicks. Funny but unlike ducklings, they don't float. :confused: So, the Snapper was well fed but had to conpete with the crawdads.

I wonder what species got the pigeon eggs? If I recall, they floated and the regular turtles went after them.

Art Eatman
May 11, 2003, 04:54 PM
One of the outdoor mags had an article about snappers. Some have been reported over 90 pounds--and a few well over that 90!

One extemely large specimen was found in SW Georgia's Chattahoochee River, back in the early 1900s, with a stone arrowhead embedded in its shell. Nobody's sure just how long they live...


Jim March
May 11, 2003, 05:47 PM
There was at least one specimen caught late in the 20th century that had a bullet lodged in it's shell. At first, they thought it was a recent "attack", until they pulled it out.

Civil War era Minie(sp?) ball!

These suckers live longer than we do.

May 12, 2003, 11:27 AM
Bass Pro in Springfield, MO used to have a monster snapper that looked as large as an old-fashioned dish pan. I recall that the sign on his tank said that he had been snagged by some fisherman. I always wondered how they got the thing to Bass Pro without loosing arms and legs.

They also used to have a gator. I thought about taping a sign on his tank that said: "Feed the gator! Buy a bucket of hamsters at the front desk! " :D

May 12, 2003, 11:33 AM
When I was 8 and living in Columbia, Tn we had a large snapper walk through our front yard (and the front yards of just about everyone on our street) that was absolutely huge. It's been a while, but I think it was about 2' tall and about 3' across. We didn't get anywhere near it, but watched it lumber across everyone's yard until it got to the woods down the street (where we played all the time). It hit the woods and disapeared. We never saw it again. To me, it looked like something out of the age of dinosaurs.


May 12, 2003, 12:20 PM
We have some enormous alligator snappers in TN. One with a 3-foot shell came crawling out of the pond one day. My brother walked up to it and crouched down to look at it's face. I came up behind the turtle and kicked it, and the neck shot out and he snapped at my brother, who jumped into the air and screamed like a girl. (We were kids then.)

Those snappers are built like tanks. When we were kids, my brother emptied the entire tube of .22 LR's from his lever action carbine into the head of one those monsters. It hissed and hissed and took forever to die.

And then there's the one that got sucked inside-out in the drainpipe. It was still alive. :what:

May 12, 2003, 01:04 PM
See, Justin?!! You thought me and my pet snapper, Bubbles, were weird. Turns out I am just tactical. :neener:

I've had him since he was the size of a quarter. :D

May 12, 2003, 01:46 PM
He still smells, though.
And see, I told you that those things would eat anything. Stop feedin' it those pellets and feed it something more substantial. Like that yappy dog the neighbor has.


Oleg Volk
May 12, 2003, 04:53 PM
Runt with a small snapper (her words)

Jim March
May 12, 2003, 05:04 PM
And look! They come with built-in handles for carrying convenience!


May 12, 2003, 05:18 PM
No way that guy could keep a 88 lb snapper under his bed and not get attacked (or get some dangling apendage) bit in the night! No way, man! Turtles arn't that smart!!!!!! You can't train monsters!!!!

Jim March
May 12, 2003, 09:33 PM
You can't train monsters!!!!

Ah. That reminds me of a charming story. And yes, it's a true story, I saw the photographs.

It seems there was a family walking through the woods in Wisconsin who came across a cute little abandoned wolf puppy. So they take it home, and with many reservations decide to make a pet out of it.

Despite the horror stories they'd heard about the practice, this particular one turned the friendliest critter they'd ever seen. It played with their dogs, wrassled with their kids, never hurt anybody. It acted like a friggin' Labrador Retriever or something, except for being a bit harder to housebreak.

But there was still something wrong. It had some sort of birth defect or something, it was just...misshapen somehow. Paws too big, body too squat, etc.

So they take it to a local vet.

The vet looks at it in shock, until it starts licking his hand. He asks the family if it's ever bitten anybody, and is assured that it's the most playful, affectionate critter they'd ever seen. (Let me interject here: the pics I saw were from an old book from the 1930s showing this thing playing with various kids as young as 2.)

The vet then says:

"That's the friendliest wolverine I ever did see!"


(This isn't as unlikely as it sounds: all the otters are famous for their tendency to "go tame" around people, the wild ancestors of ferrets didn't need taming, a whole variety of other mustelids are known for being friendly if raised by hand, skunks make GREAT pets :). Even minks can be "sorta tamed". Wolverines are the largest land mustelid; the largest mustelid is the Brazilian giant river otter at 6ft long and 150lbs...I recall seeing a nature program where some divers swam with those and soon got to the point where they were wrasslin' with 'em in a completely playful fashion without getting hurt.)

May 13, 2003, 12:47 AM
Please note from ROTL's picture of her doing the"From my cold dead hands"thing that the assualt turtle has no chance of peeing on her.

Goes to prove that proper handling of either guns or assualt turtles will tend to keep one safe from accidents.

May 13, 2003, 01:09 AM
One of the outdoor mags had an article about snappers. Some have been reported over 90 pounds--and a few well over that 90!

Had an interesting program on AP or Discovery last wekend on reptiles. Some guy in GA raises them for collectors and zoos. His rule of thumb is that alligator snappers gain a pound every year. His largest was 122 lbs., though I've heard of 150 for certain, possibly up to 200lbs.

May 13, 2003, 02:58 AM
Sure Wolverines can be trained.....but reptiles arn't NEARLY as smart as mammals! Nor do they have similar maternal instincts!!!!!

Jim March
May 13, 2003, 03:22 AM
Yup. Unless you go try and steal a baby gator out of it's mother's nest :eek:.


Henry Bowman
May 13, 2003, 03:13 PM
Very tactical, Runt!

Send lawyers, turtles, and money. :confused:

May 13, 2003, 05:20 PM
My herpetology prof has a friend who's horse tried to sniff a snapper, got bitten, and is now afraid of rocks.

May 13, 2003, 11:14 PM
When the gummint has finally confiscated all the big assault turtles, most folks will switch to carrying small pocket turtles.
I'm way ahead of them...

Even have my own factory...

(FTL applied for.)

May 14, 2003, 01:35 AM
This reminds me of one specific fishin' hole in western Oklahoma that Grandpa sometimes took me to when I was a skinny little kid. Whether the Washata River or private ponds, his favored form of catfishing was "throw lines" - basically heavy cord with two or three big stout hooks baited with big minnows, perch or jackrabbit meat. While we normally did not carry a gun on our little fishing expeditions, he ALWAYS took his .22 single shot rifle to that particular fishing hole because we would commonly snag what I perceived to be "monster turtles". They sometimes literally gave me nightmares.

Although he taught me to shoot the .22 at a pretty young age, it was always my job to back up the hill and try to keep the huge turtles' heads above the water so HE could pop them. Many times they put up such a fight that the little skinny kid wanted to sit down and dig in my heels or pass the line off to Grandpa to keep from getting pulled in - or so it seemed at the time! Not real sure now if the turtles were actually as big as perceived or if I was just that small ...

May 14, 2003, 01:47 AM
I think Runt has the medicine for assauilt turtles, her 'squirrel rifle".

"Never bring a turtle to a gunfight--especially against ROTL"

May 14, 2003, 11:44 PM
Hey B27 that FTL is that Federal Turtle License?

May 14, 2003, 11:54 PM
B27 are those box turtles?

May 15, 2003, 12:04 AM
That's Federal TURKLE license! :D

And yes indeedy, those are eastern box turtles. The little hatchlings have to live inside where they are safe but the adults get to live outside in a small area with a five foot brick wall around it.

Here's G.Gordon doing laps...

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