(WAFB) - A group of duck hunters returned from a recent hunt in Arkansas with a whale of a tale, or rather, a turtle of a tale.
On a cold morning early in January, hunters Jonathan Evins, Robbie Polk, Hayes Anthony, and Trey Whitley set out to their spot, a field and lake outside Marvel, Arkansas, with hopes of spotting some ducks. What they spotted instead, was a giant snapping turtle frozen under a layer of ice near the edge of the lake.
"We had a terrible hunt, so we thought at least getting pictures with this gigantic dinosaur will make the trip and the cold worth it," said Evins.
Evins and his buddies estimate the snapping turtle was about three feet long and about one and a half feet wide, the biggest they'd ever seen. The hunters tried to get their dog, Kane, to sit near the turtle for a comparison, but Evins says the dog was too excited to stay still. Evins says he carefully slid down onto the ice and perched by the turtle instead, praying the ice held his weight.
The group says the turtle moved very slowly, so they quickly took their pictures and let it be.
"We didn't want to disturb it too much and cause injury or death to a creature that had been around that long in the world. No telling what that thing could tell you if it could talk," said Evins.
According to biologist, Dr. Jay Curt Stager, snapping turtles have a unique way of surviving the cold. Stager explains snapping turtles hibernate when temperatures d rop, burrowing in mud at the bottom of shallow water. The turtles can slow down their metabolism, so it doesn't require a lot of oxygen. They can also absorb some oxygen from the water through membranes in their mouth. According to Stager, who is on staff at New York based Paul Smith's College, snapping turtles can survive months like this while they wait for things to thaw out and warm up.
Meanwhile, Evins' encounter with the frozen snapping turtle has gone viral. His father posted a picture on social media and it quickly spread from friends to news outlets and around the nation, shared thousands of times.
"It has been shared and reached so many people now that I'm ecstatic because I never expected that!" said Evins.
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