LAFAYETTE, LA (WVUE) - Students got an up close look at what may be the closest thing to a dinosaur in Louisiana.
University of Louisiana Lafayette students found an alligator snapping turtle near the Cypress Lake after heavy rains took it out of it's usual habitat.
The 50-pound, 30-inch long turtle was wandering along the brick wall that goes around Cypress lake according to Dr. Brad Moon, an associate professor of biology at UL Lafayette. Students took the rare opportunity to study it in person on campus before bringing the turtle back home.
"In all the years I've been teaching, we've never had the opportunity to see one up close like that," said Moon.
Michael Fulbright, one of the students that found the turtle, said that rare finds like the alligator snapping turtle are why he studies at UL Lafayette. "Personally, this was incredibly exciting. I've actually looked for this species for the last four or five years. They're very hard to find," he said. "When I came to visit the university to see if I was going to come here for my doctoral research, Cypress Lake was one of the biggest selling points, the natural beauty, the diversity of animals."
The alligator snapping turtle is known for its spiked shells and thick, scaled tails. They're often referred to as the dinosaur of the turtle world according to NationalGeographic.com. They can live up to 100 years and spend most of their time submerged in the water.
The turtle was returned to its home on Monday, April 13. Joey Pons, the environmental health and safety director at UL Lafayette said it is that the normally reclusive turtle will probably never leave the water again.
"As long as people respect the turtles, and don't antagonize them, there's little if any chance of anything bad happening," Pons said.
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