'Chonkosaurus,' a Chicago River snapping turtle, goes viral


Category:  News & Politics

Via:  perrie-halpern  •  3 weeks ago  •  23 comments

By:   Brahmjot Kaur

'Chonkosaurus,' a Chicago River snapping turtle, goes viral
A massive snapping turtle lounging on a bed of rusty chains in the Chicago River has won hearts on the internet after a viral video circulated Twitter.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

A massive snapping turtle lounging on a bed of rusty chains in the Chicago River has won hearts on the internet after a viral video of the spectacle was posted to Twitter on Saturday.

Joey Santore, a self-taught botanist and Chicago native, was kayaking through the Chicago River with his friend when he came across the turtle — which he named Chonkosaurus.

"We were just going to go out and survey for plant species that were popping up along the river, not anything that was planted, but what just pops up on its own in these highly disturbed and often polluted environments," he said. "We started seeing a bunch of native species of turtle and were just checking out some of the animal life there."

While kayaking down the river, Santore and his friend spotted the reptile on a rotting pylon, which was held together with chains and historically used to direct water traffic and prevent damage to other structures in the water. That day, it was a spot for the turtle to relax.

In the video, which had over 350,000 views on Twitter as of Friday afternoon, Santore offers Chonkosaurus words of encouragement.

"You look good. I'm real proud of you. You've been eating healthy," Santore said in the video. "You ever heard of liquid salad? We've been doing that."

Online users were mesmerized by Chonkosaurus' size.

"I love Chonkosaurus, our new Chicago icon!" one person commented.

"you know, I don't hear the old Chicago accent too much these days. this guy is a great example," another user wrote on Twitter. "also love that our river is healthy enough to support this lovely beast!"

"What has that thing been eating??? I've never seen tortoise phat before, what a delight. I've seen big ones tall as a dog up in the northeast but that's a real chonker," another commented.

There are two species of snapping turtles in North America and both of them can be found in Illinois, according to the nonprofit Friends of the Chicago River. Snapping turtles are also "ill-tempered and capable of producing a very serious bite," the nonprofit said.

Phil Nicodemus, director of research at Urban Rivers, a nonprofit organization that focuses on transforming urban waterways into wildlife sanctuaries, said he's seen the large snapping turtles nearby for the last few years. However, he said it was refreshing to see such public enthusiasm around the wildlife.

"For someone to come down our canal, take this video and it goes so viral — that's something that we see every day," he said. "The people that live near us don't even sometimes realize that stuff is right there. So, this is exactly what we wanted to see."

Nick Wesley, the executive director of Urban Rivers, said the snapping turtles thriving in the area is common as the healthy ecology continues to grow in the area. The growth in the area relied on the work of the nonprofit and others to undue the years of pollution in the river.

"The river was historically terribly polluted. Sewage and shipping were the two main uses, but I think we've really turned the page since then," he said. "Our focus has been on habitat and really increasing wildlife and that's something that I think has been really lacking in our river system."

Santore said the size of Chonkosaurus was a shock, but so was the location where he spotted it.

"This thing was obviously very ecologically successful here. It was thriving, and finding plenty to eat. I didn't expect to see that so close to downtown Chicago. And there was another one there too," he said.

Santore, who makes educational YouTube videos about plants, said he didn't expect the video to go viral, since his content is generally focused on plant education, but is grateful so many enjoyed the clip.

"People are used to passing by plants at 70 miles per hour on the freeway. I'm used to people being pretty plant blind," he said. "When you see a 60-pound snapping turtle that looks like a dinosaur hanging out on … those rusty pylons — I think the whole setting was just so funny."

This isn't Santore's first run in with virality. He went viral in 2019 for rescuing a coyote in the California countryside in a video where viewers were captivated by the coyote's big eyes and Santore's bold Chicago twang.


jrDiscussion - desc
Sparty On
Professor Principal
1  Sparty On    3 weeks ago

Who knew Tony Soprano was into Herpetology?

Professor Quiet
1.1  Ed-NavDoc  replied to  Sparty On @1    3 weeks ago

Whatever you do, don't try to handfeed that big guy!

Sparty On
Professor Principal
1.1.1  Sparty On  replied to  Ed-NavDoc @1.1    3 weeks ago

Yeah, THAT is the exact reason you’ll never find me noodling for catfish.


Senior Quiet
1.1.2  shona1  replied to  Sparty On @1.1.1    3 weeks ago

Morning.. have just googled noodling for catfish...

What the??...you mob are balmy doing that..

Professor Principal
1.1.3  devangelical  replied to  shona1 @1.1.2    3 weeks ago

not to worry, it's only popular in a certain part of the states...

Sparty On
Professor Principal
1.1.4  Sparty On  replied to  shona1 @1.1.2    3 weeks ago

Yep, pretty crazy to be sure.

Professor Quiet
1.1.5  Ed-NavDoc  replied to  Sparty On @1.1.1    3 weeks ago

In Arizona noodling is illegal. There are several lakes, rivers, and resiviores throughout the state that have three species of catfish native to Arizona including flathead, bulkhead. Can't remember the name of the third one. I remember catfishing the Lower Colorado River and various irrigation canals when I lived in Yuma, Arizona in the mid to late 70's. Me and my buds fished for flathead primarily. Those are big fish that can grow up to 50 to 70 pounds and are a huge challenge. We fished with heavy duty surf casting rods and big open faced reels. We needed them too. Lot's of fun and good memories.

Professor Quiet
1.1.6  cjcold  replied to  Ed-NavDoc @1.1    3 weeks ago

That bigun could feed me for weeks! Gallons of tasty soup.

Senior Quiet
1.1.7  shona1  replied to  cjcold @1.1.6    3 weeks ago

Arvo..yes but that could prove difficult if you only had one hand..😁

Professor Principal
1.1.8  devangelical  replied to  shona1 @1.1.7    3 weeks ago

their necks and jaws are lightning fast.

Professor Quiet
1.1.9  cjcold  replied to  shona1 @1.1.7    3 weeks ago

It's the alligator snappers that you really have to look out for. They're just plain mean.

Professor Principal
2  Kavika     3 weeks ago

Now that is a snapper.

Split Personality
Professor Principal
2.1  Split Personality  replied to  Kavika @2    3 weeks ago

Looks like he outgrew his shell decades ago...

Professor Principal
2.1.1  devangelical  replied to  Split Personality @2.1    3 weeks ago

he probably bit those anchor chains off of ships to build his perch in the canal ...

Senior Quiet
2.2  shona1  replied to  Kavika @2    3 weeks ago

Morning..he would fit right in down here..🐊🦈

Speaking of which a guy in SA just got eaten by a shark y'day. They are still searching for remains..😟

Professor Principal
2.2.1  devangelical  replied to  shona1 @2.2    3 weeks ago
They are still searching for remains

 how long does that prehistoric digestive cycle take? do sharks consider that sushi?

Senior Quiet
2.2.2  shona1  replied to  devangelical @2.2.1    3 weeks ago

Well I don't know if he was considered  as sushi but unfortunately he was food..

They look for remains as in body parts to confirm he was taken....but when witness see shark and someone goes missing pretty well a certainty he is not coming back...

Professor Principal
2.2.3  devangelical  replied to  shona1 @2.2.2    3 weeks ago

no human is going to interrupt a 200 million year cycle of swimming, eating, and making baby sharks.

Professor Quiet
2.2.4  cjcold  replied to  devangelical @2.2.3    3 weeks ago
no human is going to interrupt

Not without a seriously potent bang stick or two.

Freshman Silent
3  bccrane    3 weeks ago

In our area there seems to be people who have a great dislike of the snappers, we have people who would go out of their way to run one down on the road, and we found one on our property pond that someone shot through the shell which was probably a 30 pounder just last year, never figured it out who it was.

We now have local populations of Canadian geese taking over many area waters and more e-coli outbreaks because of them.  

On our lake, we have made it a practice to keep and hold onto as many snappers as possible in the lake to help curb the goose population.  Half or more of the goslings succumb to the snappers every year, one year all the goslings disappeared and every so often an adult goose would be heard making all kinds of racket and flailing around in the water, you knew it was a large snapper.   If everyone would leave the snappers alone the Canadian geese would eventually learn to go back to Canada and nest where snappers aren't as plentiful.

Geese are a dirty bird and because our farm fields surround our lake they graze off our crops to the point off killing the crop.

Split Personality
Professor Principal
3.1  Split Personality  replied to  bccrane @3    3 weeks ago

Canada Goose is just the name that a naturalist gave them in the 18th century because they appeared to be predominately in Canada. Now they simply tend to be around humans all the time, so maybe they should change the name to America Goose?

They range from the Artic to Mexico in North America and unfortunately have made it to Europe, Japan South America, the Faulkands and New Zealand with human help.

I have Muscovies.  All animals are destructive and "dirty", especially those that can fly.

We have hundreds of large yellow ears and a few alligator snappers on our small lake.

It is what it is. Nature is cruel. The snapper is just hungry and doesnt discriminate between Mallards, Pie Eyes, Muscovies or Canada ducklings.

Back in the day, snapper soup was very popular (Bookbinder's still sells it in cans),

I might have to order some...

charger 383
Professor Silent
4  charger 383    3 weeks ago

Turtles are cool 

Senior Expert
4.1  Gsquared  replied to  charger 383 @4    3 weeks ago

I agree.


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