Alligator snapping turtles reintroduced to southern Oklahoma

TISHOMINGO, Okla. (AP) - A species of turtle that had nearly disappeared from the state is back swimming in the waters of southeastern Oklahoma.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently released 277 alligator snapping turtles into the Washita River drainage system, primarily in waters around the Tishomingo National Wildlife Refuge.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission confiscated the adult alligator snapping turtles from a commercial breeder and relocated them to southern Oklahoma, where they once flourished.

Alligator snapping turtles are different from the more common snapping turtle and can grow quite large. One found in Missouri weighed 316 pounds.

But Oklahoma State University researcher Day Ligon says it will be rare for people to come in contact with the turtles. Ligon says they'll generally stay in murky backwater sloughs and feed on rough fish, plants and dead animal carcasses.

Some of the released turtles have sonic transmitters attached to their shells and will be tracked by Oklahoma State University graduate students over the next several years.