CRUNCH HISTORY: It all began for this giant around 150 years ago.
No one kept track of him that far back. He was on his own, as it was intended. He had cut his way out of an egg the size of
a golf ball and dug himself up out of the dirt where the clutch had been laid by a cautious female months before. He found
his way back to the body of water that his mother had left to lay his egg and he crawled into it to begin his journey of life.
He existed as a loner, tucked away in a swamp or river, out of the sight of man. It was somewhere in their natural origins
in the southern United States that he led his secretive lifestyle, a secret that led to his longevity. As a male Alligator
Snapping turtle, he would spend his entire life never leaving the water. As the world’s largest freshwater turtle species,
once grown, he had only one natural enemy and that was man. In the 60’s and 70’s the Alligator Snapping Turtle
became the target of commercial trapping at a population depleting rate. They were trapped and butchered for their meat. The
giant was victim to the lure of a trap. He was removed from his hiding place in the swamp by boat; the first time he had probably
been out of the water since his life had begun. The trapper's sole intention was to make money. The giant was taken to
a fishery in Mississippi and sold for slaughter. While the population of large Alligator Snapping Turtles were disappearing
from the wild, there was one trapper starting to realize what had happened. He had been one of the most aggressive killers
of this species. He had set up a very profitable commercial trapping operation that had spanned several states. Admittedly,
he held himself responsible for the large turtle's disappearance. He realized what he had done and knew it couldn’t
be turned back. He began building large breeding ponds and fencing them in on property purchased with the trapping profits.
The reformed trapper began to stock the ponds with active breeders. He reserved one of the ponds as a shelter for the largest
Alligator Snapping Turtles that had escaped the siege of slaughter. The large Alligator Snappers were no longer active breeders
due to the size difference in the two sexes. They were housed simply for safe keeping. The giant was discovered by the reformed
trapper in the fishery and was placed in the safe haven set aside for them. He would spend the next ten years as the largest
in the pond.
The native states began to pass protection laws banning trapping and the reformed
trapper began to release hatchlings back into the wild. It would take hundreds of years before there would be a return of
large Alligator Snappers in the wild. While the reformed trapper's breeding project was a success, it came at a cost. With
the pumping of water and the enormous amount of food consumed, it was too much for one family to hold onto. He began to sell
the breeding size turtles to facilities that would carry out conservation oriented programs. Personal crisis drove the need
for more money to a new high in his life. Apprehensively, he was forced to sell his last treasured giant. Later, this giant
would be known as CRUNCH. Blackwater Turtle Refuge has owned and cared for CRUNCH ever since that day in 1989. This was a
day when a man knew it was time to place his treasured, ancient giant into our hands for the next stage of safe keeping. At
Blackwater, we consider ourselves his caretaker more than his owner. He should outlive us by over one hundred years. We strive
to exhibit him in a manner that will protect his well being. We reach out to the viewing public to educate them on a species
of animal that they most likely have never seen before. This is the largest freshwater turtle species in the world and it’s
native to the United States. They were here. We came, and the giants are gone. We hope to promote conservation with CRUNCH
by changing the hearts of man, their only natural enemy…… CONSERVATION through EDUCATIONAL COMMERCIALIZATION.
Rusty Reed Curator of
the Blackwater Turtle Refuge
For more information on the Alligator Snapping Turtlefollow link.