DNA Testing Brings New Species Out of Its Shell

Weekly news, tips, trivia, fun facts and wild tales from the outdoors

The prehistoric-looking alligator snapping turtle, the largest freshwater turtle in the world based on weight, is actually comprised of three distinct species, according to a new study utilizing genetic testing and appearing in the scientific journal Zootaxa in April. This week, you’ll also read about the most excessive fishing over-limit case we’ve ever reported here at The Outdoor News Hound.

Alligator Snapping Turtle Comprised of Three Species
Loosely related to common snapping turtles, alligator snapping turtles have a dinosaur-like appearance and a range that’s limited to rivers in the southeastern United States that drain into the Gulf of Mexico. The prehistoric throwback is known for its size — it can weigh up to 200 pounds — and longevity of nearly a century.

Alligator snapping turtleshave a dinosaur-like appearance.
Alligator snapping turtles
have a dinosaur-like appearance.

According to National Geographic, there was an unverified story of a 402-pound specimen found in the Neosho River in Kansas in 1937.

Utilizing DNA and fossil evidence, Dr. Kevin Enge of Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, and Dr. Joe Roman from the University of Vermont, have identified two new species of alligator snapping turtles. Their report in the journal Zootaxa indicates both species inhabit the southeast: the Suwannee alligator snapping turtle in Florida and Georgia, and the Apalachicola alligator snapping turtle in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama — in and around the Apalachicola River.

“These turtles depend on rivers and only leave the water to lay eggs, so it’s not surprising that there are genetic differences between drainages,” said study co-author Joe Roman,

Known for their powerful jaws, very large heads, strongly hooked beaks and long tails; they are unique among snapping turtles for having eyes on the side of their heads.

Their diet includes nuts, berries, other vegetation, and any animal prey found in the water including snakes, other turtles, fish, and even small alligators.

Once heavily harvested for meat – alligator snapper was the main ingredient of Campbell’s Turtle Soup in the 1960s – their river populations have been deeply depleted and are of conservation concern. This new discovery indicates the reptiles may be more imperiled than previously understood.

Wisconsin Ginseng Poacher Fined $4,000
A Trempealeau County, Wis., man has been ordered to pay nearly $4,000 in fines and restitution following his conviction of illegally harvesting at least $10,000 of wild ginseng without permission and out of season in a case a Department of Natural Resources warden calls an “all too common” violation against unsuspecting landowners.

Timothy Kampa of Independence was found guilty in Trempealeau County Circuit Court April 25 of eight counts of harvesting ginseng without landowner permission during the closed season and failure to keep the stalk attached to the ginseng root while in the field.

Kampa was ordered to pay $2,748 in fines plus $1,000 in restitution to landowners whose ginseng was illegally taken from them. He also will serve a 20-year revocation of ginseng harvest privileges and forfeit approximately 14 pounds of dry ginseng seized by DNR conservation wardens valued at approximately $10,000.

A resident license to legally harvest ginseng in season is $15.75. A nonresident license to legally harvest ginseng in season is $30.75.

“He would park his vehicle at rest areas, cemeteries or other pull-off locations where no one would suspect anything wrong and head out into the woods,” said DNR Conservation Warden Christopher Shea.

Ginseng is often used in herbal remedies and sold overseas.

Angler Exceeds Limit — By 1,600 Fish!
It’s a fishing over-limit case that far exceeds anything we’ve ever reported here at The Outdoor News Hound.

A New Mexico man caught and kept more than 160 times the limit of rainbow trout!
A New Mexico man caught and kept more than 160 times
the limit of rainbow trout!

Last week, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish reported the arrest of a Clovis man who allegedly caught and kept more than 160 times the limit of rainbow trout from two municipal lakes where they’re annually stocked for citizens to enjoy catching during the winter months.

Bounchanh Bounsombath, 62, was arrested Monday, May 12, when department officers executed a search warrant at his home and seized more than 1,600 trout after receiving an anonymous tip to the agency’s Operation Game Thief hotline.

“Never in my whole career have I encountered this before,” Col. Robert Griego said. “The extreme excess of this case is aggravating. The department stocks these fish for all sportsmen and women, young and old, with the desire that everyone will have the opportunity to enjoy the fish.”

Bounsombath was booked into the Curry County Detention Center and bond was set at $2,500. The department will seek $8,000 in civil restitution for the state to recover the loss of the trout.

Voters Approve Sunday Hunting in Five West Virginia Counties
Last week, voters in West Virginia approved ballot measures in five counties to allow hunting to take place on private property on Sundays for the first time since colonial days.

Sunday hunting on private land during designated hunting seasons will now be legal in Braxton, Calhoun, Nicholas, Webster, and Wirt counties. The ballot measure was turned down only by voters in Lewis and Gilmer counties, the latter by an unofficial total of only 30 votes.

The May 13 election marked the first time Sunday hunting has been put before voters in more than a decade. The West Virginia legislature in 2002 authorized Sunday hunting on private land statewide if voters in each county approved. Soon after the legislation was passed, 41 counties immediately prohibited Sunday hunting. This year, harnessing the momentum in neighboring Virginia and Maryland, the question was placed on the ballot in seven counties.

Quote of the Week
“Hunting is like a game of chess; you can play it a million times, yet never play any two games all the way through in exactly the same way.”
– Archibald Rutledge,
Days Off in Dixie, 1935

J.R. Absher is a freelance outdoor writer whose articles and columns appear in numerous national publications. He offers his unique perspective of the outdoors weekly for sportsmansguide.com. You may contact him at jrabsher@me.com.

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