Museum Raising Money To Buy New Tank For Resident Snapping Turtle (That Doesn't Snap)

Dec 21, 2017

Basil the turtle is in the market for a new tank, and the Vermont museum he calls home is organizing a fundraising effort in order to shell out the necessary money for the upgrade.

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Basil's story begins about ten years ago, when a young girl in Bennington County came across a baby snapping turtle and she took it home.

The turtle grew. And grew. And grew.

Eventually the girl's family turned it over to Trust for Wildlife, a Vermont-based animal rescue group. And then few years later, when the turtle outgrew the tank there, the director moved the animal to the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum in West Marlboro.

Basil the turtle now weighs around 12 pounds. Michael Clough, assistant director at Southern Vermont Natural History Museum, says Basil could live for 50-to-100 years and eventually weigh more than 30 pounds.

So considering that, the museum is now trying to raise enough money to purchase a larger tank.

"For a long time the tank was plenty big for the turtles we had here," Clough says. "Now he's grown, and the tank has taken a lot of wear and tear. ... [The] snapping turtle is an aquatic turtle — he wants to swim — and he can barely swim in here now just because the water depth isn't adequate."

The Southern Vermont Natural History Museum does not have an endowment or university backing it up, and so they've started a GoFundMe campaign to try to raise about $5,000 for Basil's new tank.

"Because he [Basil] has no fear of people, he doesn't have that snap response. ... So it was decided that he'd be better off going out there doing some positive PR for snapping turtles as opposed to having a risky existence out in the wild." — Michael Clough, Southern Vermont Natural History Museum

Clough says Basil has become a sort of ambassador for the museum, and when Clough goes out to work with kids around the region, Basil travels with him.

"He's a rock star at the schools," says Clough. "He goes all over the place. We just had him at the Boys & Girls Club last week. He'll be going up to Claremont, [New Hampshire] in a couple weeks. ... He's traveled all over the place. He's been in Albany, New York, and all over the state of Vermont."

Out in the wild, snapping turtles snap to protect themselves. But Basil's lived a pretty cushy life, and he has no fear of humans. So even though Basil sports an impressive beak and jaw, he's never tried to bite anyone.

"Because he has no fear of people, he doesn't have that snap response — his chances out there of running into people and getting in trouble are gonna be pretty high," Clough says. "So it was decided that he'd be better off going out there doing some positive PR for snapping turtles as opposed to having a risky existence out in the wild."

And so Clough says Basil will probably spend the rest of his life here in West Marlboro, teaching visitors about the world of reptiles.