100-year-old giant snapping turtle named 'Thanos' missing, possibly stolen

Cindy Bae Image
Tuesday, March 12, 2024
100-year-old giant snapping turtle missing, possibly stolen
"It's almost like losing a piece of myself, to be honest with you," the turtle's owner said.

DURHAM, N.C. -- Tuesday marks two days of agony for Dan Hemby, who said he feels like he lost a part of his family when his alligator snapping turtle named "Thanos," disappeared.

"It's almost like losing a piece of myself, to be honest with you," Hemby said.

Hemby last saw Thanos while he was traveling from Jacksonville down Interstate 40 in Durham, North Carolina.

Hemby planned to bring the 140-180 pound, 38-inch, century-old bright yellow turtle to the Durham Reptile Expo on Sunday when he noticed something was wrong.

"We weren't even maybe 30 minutes away from the convention center, and we get there ... first thing I see is all three straps were popped open and moved to the side and the grates were moved over," Hemby said.

Hemby said it was a smooth, quiet, early morning ride to Durham and after weighing the possible outcomes, he believes Thanos could have possibly been taken at the rest stop just outside of Benson, where he last checked on him.

"He couldn't bite his way out. I don't think he could strong arm his way out, honestly, especially not with the three ratchet straps that were on there," Hemby said. "I think somebody messed with him, I honestly don't know what to think."

Hemby said he checked for blood marks on the highway but didn't find any.

"If he did fall, he probably got scraped up," Hemby said. "He probably survived long as he was on this front. But if he got on his back, I don't know if he would be able to get back on after that much impact. His first thing he would do is probably go for water."

NC Wildlife officials said if the turtle fell and survived and was near a river, it could potentially survive in the wild as the species is very aquatic and spends little, if any time, traveling over land.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, alligator snapping turtles are not known to attack people, but they can bite. With their powerful jaws, they can even snap through bone.

"If you see him, please let us know. Be careful. Do not handle him," Hemby said. "He couldn't go out as far as regular turtles, or regular common snappers. If somebody stole them, please just get him home or just make sure he's safe."