What's living in there?
I have been camping. I feel smug about it because this summer has been pretty indoors, so camping as a baseline fact is an achievement, but I also remembered to bring my goggles this time so that when we went swimming I could look at stuff. At the swimming hole this was ideal because it looked crazy under there—rocks with these big cylindrical holes punched out of them by time itself, I suppose. Fish.
The last time I had been in a lake upstate was kind of a while ago, with a friend. We had finished jumping off the rock and getting out and jumping and so on. I peered over the edge of the rock into the clear water, just to look. There I saw the weirdest creature I think I've ever beheld, which turned out to be a snapping turtle who lived exactly in the spot we were leaping on. I felt terrible for disturbing him but grateful for each toe.
This new lake was shallower which seemed less turtle-friendly. It was excellent water had but that brown, mineral aspect which makes it hard to see through even the clearest lake. So later I looked it up.
I found one of the most classically orthodox blogs I could imagine: nyskiblog.com
What does the blog say is in the lake? Something unique and terrible.
Here is his 2018 claim:
I saw something once, something big and monstrous and unbelievable. I’m not talking about Bigfoot or the Lochness Monster, which I can’t bring myself to believe in. My monster was more mundane then an eight foot tall North American ape or a leftover brontosaurus. What I saw does exist. Nobody disputes that; it just wasn’t supposed to be where I saw it.
It was five years ago, while padding on North South Lake, upstate, in the Catskills. I had the whole family out on the water, enjoying a sunny afternoon in our canoe. There were lots of folks out that day camping, picnicking, fishing, paddling, swimming and hiking on the footpaths around the lake and in the surrounding woods.
My youngest was in the bow, my wife was behind him, paddle in hand, then my older son sat behind her, using our little blue cooler as a seat. I was in the stern, paddling and steering. As we crossed over an area of submerged water lilies, my wife and kids were looking right but my attention was pulled in the other direction by some people on shore, loitering around a little stone bridge. I thought one of them might jump off the bridge into the lake, which I didn’t want to miss. When that didn’t happen I turned my attention back to paddling.
On my next stroke, just as I inserted the blade of my paddle into the water, it appeared. It swam silently, emerging from beneath the canoe, right under my wife’s seat. The biggest damn turtle that anyone has ever seen; it was a beast. It swam away from us at an angle, just beneath the water’s surface above a bright green bed of seaweed growing on the shallow bottom. The water was clear as glass and it didn’t disturb the surface a bit. It was unreal. Just like that; one moment I’m paddling along, and the next I’m looking at something out of a Godzilla movie.
I was gobsmacked. The shell was four feet across with a GIGANTIC head and a big meaty tail that looked like it belonged on a dinosaur. It had big spiky ridges across its shell, bits of bright red and yellow spots and long claws hanging from the ends of its feet. I can still see those claws in my mind’s eye. For a moment, it was close enough to reach out and touch if I were quicker or less surprised or completely stupid.
Incredibly, nobody else saw it. NYSkiBlog persists in his belief although nobody would take his word for it. And no it's NOT a snapping turtle, before you ask.
The first thing I did when we got home was to start researching snapping turtles. The Common Snapper that lives in New York doesn’t get as big as the one I’d seen, not nearly as big. Then I found his cousin, that lives in the south, called the Alligator Snapping Turtle. Alligator Snappers, I learned, grow much bigger and when I started looking at pictures of them I was fully convinced that this was what I saw. I searched “alligator snapping turtle in NY” and found an article about one found on Long Island and removed by Animal Control. The article stated clearly that it had to be released as a pet because these turtles do not live in New York.
Like other people who have seen something incredible, I couldn’t shut up about it. Anybody who expressed the slightest interest in boating, fishing or really, anything outdoorsy, would hear my story. I’m not sure anyone believed me, including the three who were in the canoe with me. The reactions ranged from polite, patronizing to skeptical: “I doubt it was that big, probably just a regular snapping turtle.” I’ve seen dozens of common snappers over the years, going back to 5th grade when I first saw one pulled out of Belvedere Lake near Oneonta.
Common Snappers are a dull green and, while they have pointy protrusions around the edge of their shell — called a carapace — they don’t have the multiple rows of (alligator-like) ridges running front to back across the top of their shell. Common Snappers shells are rounded and relatively smooth.
And here is a picture from the blog:
Isn't that incredible?
I didn't see the alleged turtle. Or any other ones. But I believe him.
Read this comment by username Mike and tell me you do not believe:
I just found “a baby” alligator snapper down in my basement’s window well. I’m in Monroe County NY (Rochester) and the little guy was trying to climb out. I was downstairs in my basement and thought I heard some tapping…a familiar sound of small toads that often seek refuge. But nope, it tried to climb up the window…first a tiny head, then tiny feet with needle like claws followed by the shell...When I got my work gloves and picked him up, it looked like something from “the land before time”. Amazing spikes and camouflaged shell. He was smaller than the palm of my hand with a “whip like tail” that was nearly the length of his shell. Very spry and extremely eager to forage. “Totally illegal” as an animal control officer who happened to be at the town park I released him into...
Dave has a similar story:
Not for nothing, but I saw an alligator snapping turtle in a park in Westchester about two weeks ago. They’re very distinctive looking at VERY large so I have a high degree of confidence that I identified it correctly. I also rescued one that was crossing the road with my son on a camping trip in upstate New York in the late Spring – it was immense and at least 40 pounds of turtle. I was up close and personal with it so, again, I am very confident I identified it correctly.
Oh, and George Deblasio? He's seen them too:
I saw a huge one in Orange County NY, in Ridgebury Lake, we used to fish there as kids. Once in a while there would be a commotion on the top of the water, and a duck would go missing with to the feathers scattered about. So we knew there was something in there.
...When I got a little bit older and started hanging out with the girls in the neighborhood they would always want to go swimming in Ridgebury Lake, and I would say hell no you have no idea what lives in there.
George saved the girls.
Lest you think this is a new freak turtle, it's not, says Jennifer:
I saw one 50 years ago with binoculars in tiny Duane Lake, north of the Catskills. I wrote it up for a school composition assignment. Others reported seeing it, too.
What do you think? Are there fucking alligator snapping turtles in all the lakes upstate? I want to know if there are.