At first, Carlos Rubio couldn’t figure out what he saw beneath the water of Lake Ralphine in a California park.
“At first I thought it was a boulder moving in the water,” Rubio told KGO.
Video posted to Reddit by Rubio shows a large, rock-like object moving under the water in the Howarth Park lake in Santa Rosa.
“I realized it was a pretty big snapping turtle,” Rubio told KGO. He said the turtle appeared to be about the size of a spare tire.
Snapping turtles are not native to California and are illegal to own without a permit, wildlife experts told The Press Democrat.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people get them when they’re babies and do not care about the law,” Wendy Rozonewski of JNW Animal Rescue in Vallejo told the publication. “But when they start to get too big or aggressive, they start releasing the animals in water or not far from where they live. It will survive. The problem is, it kills off our native species.”
The turtle in Lake Ralphine could be one of three subspecies, SFGate reported.
One, the “dinosaur-like” alligator snapping turtle, can reach up to 175 pounds, the National Wildlife Federation said.
“They’ll eat anything — I mean anything. If you put your foot in front of it, it will bite you,” Rozonewski told KGO.
Greg Martinelli, a program manager with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Bay Delta Region, told The Press Democrat the turtles are “voracious and omnivorous.” They’ve been known to bite the legs off birds floating in the water.
The agency and Santa Rosa parks officials are investigating.
Santa Rosa is a city of 177,000 people about 55 miles north of San Francisco.