Men cited for poaching 80-year-old alligator snapping turtle in southern Oklahoma

Photo: Gary M. Stolz / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

TISHOMINGO, Okla. (KTUL) -- Oklahoma game wardens have arrested two men after receiving a tip about a poached alligator snapping turtle.

Wardens say the turtle weighed about 78 pounds and was estimated at 75 to 80 years old.

Acting on the tip, wardens tracked the suspect's vehicle to Tishomingo where the driver admitting to catching the turtle on an illegal throw line in the Tishomingo Management Unit. Instead of releasing the turtle, wardens say he and another man camping in the area decided to shoot the turtle in the head.

The driver, who had outstanding warrants, was booked into the Johnston County Jail. Wardens then found the second man still at his campsite. They say he admitted to shooting the turtle with a 9 mm handgun.

Both men were cited for killing the turtle. They face $989 fines plus up to $5,000 each for restitution.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, alligator snapping turtles are declining because of habitat degradation and overharvesting for their meat. They are not officially an endangered species but some states have imposed bans on collecting them from the wild.

Cash rewards are sometimes given to tipsters who turn in poachers. Call Operation Game Thief at (800) 522-8039 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays. Your local warden can be reached around the clock by phone or text. Find a directory here.