Snapping turtle dubbed 'Chonkosaurus' spotted in Chicago River

If a massive snapping turtle ever had a name, "Chonkosaurus" would be a perfect epithet.

A video of a massive snapping turtle on the Chicago River is going viral, at just the right time.

Narrated in the perfect Chicago accent, Joey Santore's video of what he now calls "Chonkosaurus" has picked up tens of thousands of views online.

"I wasn't expecting to see that turtle," said Santore, who hosts a Comedy/Nature show on YouTube called 'Crime Pays But Botany Doesn't.'

"When I first saw the turtle, I thought it was a sandbag someone had thrown on the rotting pylons," he said.


Santore was out shooting for his show along the North Branch when he spotted Chonkosaurus under the Division Street Bridge.

"It makes you feel pretty good," he said. "Any time you're in an urban area and you see a bit of nature thriving, animal or plant life, it feels pretty good."

But Friends of Chicago River said these days, a sighting like this isn't quite as unique as you might think.

"The river system is teaming with life," said Margaret Frisbie, Exceutive Director. "There's turtles, there's beavers, there's muskrats, there's herons, there's nearly 80 species of fish."

Frisbie said the big turtle sighting is indicative of just how far the Chicago River has bounced back in terms of health in recent years. In fact, she said the water is clean enough for swimming, which would be safe in areas without boat traffic.

"[Swimming in the river] is not far-flung. That's something that is really not that far from now."

Santore, who lives in Texas but grew up in Chicago, was visiting some family and friends in the city at the time of the huge encounter. Santore told FOX Weather that he travels around the world filming plants and making educational videos about their ecology and evolution.

The timing on the viral video could not be better. It's shining a spotlight on the Chicago River with just days to go before the 31st Annual Chicago River Day, which is Saturday, May 13th. Between 9 a.m. and noon – 2,000 volunteers will clean up litter at 80 locations throughout the Chicago River system.

To find out how to help, visit

According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, 260 species of turtles have been found worldwide.