From sneezing pandas to screaming goats to smiling sharks, there’s nothing the internet adores more than an absurd animal. The latest animal celebrity, however, didn’t do anything to earn its fame – and that’s exactly why we love it. Chonkosaurus the snapping turtle was simply sunning when it caught the eye of kayakers and subsequently captured the hearts of countless online.
As its hilarious moniker suggests, Chonkosaurus is massive. In the clip captured and posted by Twitter user Joey Santore, the snapping turtle sunbathes on a pile of rusty chains in the Chicago River, its enormous body taking up just about every available inch of its metallic mattress.
Chicago River Snapper aka Chonkosaurus. Great to see this beast thriving here on what was once such a toxic river, but is slowly getting cleaned up & restored. Somebody planted a bunch of native plants up the river from here, too. I can only wonder this things been eating. pic.twitter.com/u6bhlpo4p5— Joey Santore (@JoeySantore) May 6, 2023
“Look at this guy. We got a picture of this most beautiful sight. Look at the size of that thing,” Satore says, clearly in awe of the titanic turtle. “Look at that beast. Hey, how ya doing, guy? You look good. You’re healthy.”
The kayakers’ hilarious reaction to the sizable snapping turtle helped the viral video along. But even without the colorful commentary, Chonkosaurus is an eye-catching sight to behold all on its own.
A large species, the average common snapping turtle is an impressive 11 inches in length and weighs anywhere from 20 to 75 pounds. But Chonkosaurus is no average turtle.
Though we can’t know its exact size without measuring it, the mammoth snapper appears far above average.
‘Chonkosaurus’ is a fitting name for the giant Chicago snapping turtle
According to Chris Anchor, a wildlife biologist with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, snapping turtles aren’t uncommon in the Chicago River. It’s Chonkosaurus’ size that’s shocking.
“What is uncommon is that a turtle of this size is actually observed,” Anchor told Chicago5. “These turtles live on the bottom of the river and, unlike a painted turtle or red-eared slider, which are very commonly seen basking on rocks and whatnot, snapping turtles are almost never seen.”
“They are only found out of the water right after hibernation, which is what I think was going on with this individual, or when they emerge from the water to lay eggs, and that typically occurs in our area during the month of June. So my guess is that this animal had crawled out of the river to try and gather as much heat as it could in the sunshine.”
Again, the snapping turtle’s exact measurements remain unknown. At the very least, however, it’s a “very mature, very large” individual.
What did Chonkosaurus eat to get so big?
So, what has Chonkosaurus been eating to reach such a spectacular size? Well, in general, a snapping turtle will eat almost anything it can catch and swallow. As Chonk is so large, there isn’t much that’s off the menu.
“Turtles this big will consume anything they can get their mouth around,” Anchor explained. This means insects, crayfish, fish, amphibians, and birds to start with, but the gargantuan snapping turtle is more than large enough to consume other reptiles and even small mammals as well.
Now, if Chonkosaurus can eat a small mammal, fitting a few fingers in its mouth is no problem. The Chicago kayakers handled their snapping turtle encounter exactly right – they enjoyed the animal from afar, then continued on their way.
In the water, snapping turtles are a generally calm and docile species. On land (or rusty chains), however, they’re easily agitated and can bite in self-defense.
Regardless of the location, it’s important to take care not to disturb snapping turtles or any other form of wildlife. As Chris Anchor so succinctly put it: “Enjoy it. Leave it alone.”