HOUSTON—At the Texas Wildlife Center, they are bursting at the seams with refugees from the recent storm.
“Whenever there’s a big storm we get a lot of squirrels, birds and possums, because they blow out of the trees,” said volunteer Pat Booher.
Among these common creatures we encounter every day, there’s one at the center that we don’t.
“When I first heard the report, I was like, ‘Are you sure?’ And when we saw all the distinctive characteristics, we’re like, ‘It is an alligator snapping turtle,’” said the center’s executive director, Sharon Schmalz.
The alligator snapping turtle was threatened in Texas and thought to be extinct in Harris County until recently. One was found in Buffalo Bayou with fish hooks lodged in her mouth and throat. She was taken to Texas A&M where veterinarians went to work.
“So they had to anesthetize her, and surgically take it out, sew up the side of her mouth and now she’s eating and definitely ready for release,” said Schmalz. “She’s feeling much better.”
At 25 years of age, she weighs in at 44 pounds and has prehistoric origins.
“If you look on the neck, they have these little points sticking out, almost like a dinosaur,” said Schmalz. “The feet look like a dinosaur. They really, really are neat animals.”
The folks at the wildlife center are more than a little excited.
“That’s why I’ve done this for 29 years,” said Schmalz. ”So we can help animals get back into the wild where they belong. We can get her back to a safe protected area, and we can have more baby alligator snapping turtles in the environment.”