Alligator snapping turtle gets a new home on Chicago's North Side

FOX 32 NEWS - An unusual-looking turtle that needs some room to grow moved into some new digs Thursday at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum on Chicago's North Side.

The scissors probably weren't needed today: Patsy the "alligator snapping turtle" has a set of jaws so powerful she could have cut the ribbon herself.

“The theory is that if you put a broom handle in front of them and aggravate them enough, they can bite straight through it,” said Celeste Troon of the Notebaert Nature Museum.

The occasion was Patsy's homecoming: her transfer from a smaller tank to a new, larger one. It has room for her to grow from her current 15 pounds to an expected 100 pounds or more. She's just 9 years old now, and could live to be more than 100.

“A tank this size always presents a lot of technical challenges. Obviously you want to make sure that it's watertight. And it's really got to be robust because she's a large turtle and she's going to get much larger,” said Alvaro Ramos.

“That's why we made it so huge at this stage. So we'll just keep the water deep, we'll increase the size of the food, and she can happily dwell in there for many years to come,” Troon said.

Patsy's diet consists mainly of live fish. She's got a special appendage on her tongue which resembles a worm. Fish are attracted to it, and then her powerful jaws do the rest of the work.

Alligator snapping turtles have rough, spiky shells, and they're so-named because of their  resemblance to alligators. Unlike "common" snapping turtles, the alligator snapping turtles are listed as an endangered species in many states, including Illinois. So the kids who were on hand for Patsy's homecoming were pretty excited to meet her.

“I really like it. And I think everybody should have a little turtle magic in their life and I think Patsy's going to give that,” said 9-year-old Jack Wolf.

The alligator snapping turtles that have been found in Illinois were found in the far southern sections of our state.