The shell of an alligator snapping turtle is unmistakable. Giant ridges rise up giving the species an ancient look and in reality these creatures are not much different than dinosaurs of the past. Seeing pieces of shell and remnants of the skull of a large alligator snapper in hoop nets was an early lesson in conservation.
Me and my cousin Frank Moore found it in a slough on Adams Bayou on a low tide. Hoop nets are large, round nets that are designed to catch catfish by allowing them to swim in but offer no way to get out. The problem is nothing else can get out either.
And as a saw the remnants of the shattered giant in the net, I realize just how harmful these nets are. This was one we found and pulled out of the water because they are illegal in Texas. We called and reported it to a game warden warden when we got home and he said he has pulled numerous nets out of that bayou and others in the area.
They are legal for use just across the border in Louisiana and in other states.
They kill untold numbers of turtles and nontarget fish and are extremely wasteful.
I have no doubt that a large part of the alligator snapping turtles demise in many areas is because of the presence of hoop nets that add to the problem of illegal harvest and dams blocking migration routes.
This is not unlike the problem of “ghost” crab traps along the bay systems of the United States. Commerical crabbers sometimes lose their traps to storms and other factors and they lie on the bottom continually killing crabs, various fish and in my home state of Texas the endangered diamondback terrapin, a small turtle that sometimes finds its way into these ghost traps.
Chester Moore, Jr.