Brooklyn's biggest turtle?

Huckleberry says hi to a (mostly harmless) red-eared slider turtle. Turtles, fish and ducks hang around Prospect Park’s dog beach and snap up the treats people throw to their dogs in the water. Let those who think dogs terrify all wildlife come visit.

The giant snapping turtle in Prospect Park’s lullwater is about 25 years old and as big as a garbage can lid, says Jimbo, the captain of the electric boat that twho steers the electric boat that tours Prospect Park Lake on weekends. I went on the tour a couple weeks ago, and though I haven’t yet actually seen the turtle, I’ve heard others confirm the legend. Park workers have seen ducks yanked underwater by some predator.

Jimbo says with great Brooklyn flair that the turtle often bumps the bottom of his boat and can give a real shove if he’s in a little skiff. Last year the turtle was hit by a cyclist–Jimbo does an amusing impression of the spandex-sheathed weenies who zip around the park oblivious to every other living creature. The cyclist crashed, bent his wheel, but the turtle just plod on.

A couple years ago somebody was laying traps for turtles in the lake, the Brooklyn Paper reported.

The turtle may be the one transplanted from neighboring Brooklyn Botanic Garden when they renovated the Japanese garden and pond in 1999. The next year the turtle known as Godzilla tried to cross Flatbush Avenue and head home but was thwarted by do gooders, the New York Times says.

Prospect Park has several species of turtles, but most individuals are non-native red-eared sliders. The park is sometimes a dumping ground for failed pet owners. In June these turtles leave the ponds to lay eggs–if they can get around the gauntlet of people who might run them down or try to help them by returning them to water.

In most of the rest of the country, country snapping turtles are more of interest as something to catch and eat: “There are many different ways of taking turtles. The old-timers say “noodling” is the best,” Ohio wildlife officials say. Yeah, great idea. That would certainly hillbilly handfishing more of a high stakes sport, considering snapping turtles can have a bite force of 1,000 pounds.

Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)

An enormous snapping turtle in Brooklyn Green-Wood Cemetery, by James Castle / Jeremy Seto

How big do snapping turtles get? The common ones, (Chelydra serpentina), normally grow up to 20 inches or 25 pounds. Alligator snapping turtles  (Macrochelys temminckii), are much bigger and spikier but they mainly live down south. Darren Naish, who writes about reptiles, says that there’s a long history of unverifiably enormous alligator snappers “bigger than the ‘verified’ ones,” with the most famous “was the gigantic individual, dubbed variously the ‘Beast of ‘Busco’ or ‘Oscar’ (after Oscar Fulk, allegedly the first witness), that supposedly dwelt in Fulk’s Lake, Churubusco, Indiana.” Sightings went on for 50 years, with one 1949 account describing it as 1.8 m long.  A couple men even died trying to catch and measure the beast.

I hope to see the big Brooklyn turtle, but I’m not sure how I can make that happen.

Where to go to see turtles

Related posts:


On the advice of a right whale, we have closed comments for this post. If you have something really important to say, email us and we'd be delighted to reopen it for you. (The whale is only trying to prevent spam comments.)