By: JESSICA THOMSON | Newsweek
A massive alligator snapping turtle, estimated to be around 200 pounds, has been caught by a fisherman on a trip at Lake Cherokee in East Texas.
Justin Broomhall, the fisherman who landed this beast, did not realize at first that it was a protected species in Texas and subsequently released it back into the lake.
Kirk Clendening, a Texas game warden for Rusk County, told CBS19: “It’s considered a threatened species in Texas. Since it’s protected, you cannot take or possess them.”
According to a Facebook post by family friend Kristina Ritter, two Rusk county wardens came out to talk to them about their catch. They could not find out how heavy the turtle was, she said, as they did not have a way to weigh it at the time.
Alligator snapping turtles are native to freshwater lakes and rivers in the southeast U.S. Males are much larger than females. They can grow to up to 220 lbs but typically reach between 155 and 175 lbs. Their powerful jaws have a bite force of 1000 lbs, more than enough to cut off a human finger.
An estimated population of 360,000 exists across 12 states currently, but without protection, their numbers could fall to a mere 5 percent of that in 30 to 50 years, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.