Shelldon needs a NEW HOME

Funds sought for MooseWood’s snapping turtle

MooseWood Nature Center has a GoFundMe campaign underway for a new enclosure for its snapping turtle, Shelldon. The turtle is outgrowing his current tank and needs more space. (Photo courtesy of Scot Stewart)

MARQUETTE — Shelldon needs a new home.

One of the most popular attractions at MooseWood Nature Center is Shelldon, the large snapping turtle whose prehistoric appearance delights many visitors, especially when it stretches its long neck above the water surface.

However, his tank is getting too small — or rather, he’s getting too big for the tank.

A GoFundMe campaign, “Shelldon’s New Home,” is underway until March 1 to raise $1,000 for a new tank. As of Thursday, $620 had been raised.

“Shelldon is one of our most popular educational animals and turns heads of the many visitors of the nature center,” said Tiffany Rantanen, a MooseWood board member, on the GoFundMe campaign page.

Shelldon was taken from the wild as a young turtle by a Wisconsin resident. After spending time as a pet, he became too big to keep. So, he was given to the Wisconsin Humane Society, which got out the word that the snapping turtle needed a permanent home.

In 2011, MooseWood gave him that home, with a condition, set by the Humane Society, that he not be released into the wild because he had been raised in captivity.

Since his arrival at MooseWood, Shelldon — who recently acquired that name by popular vote from names suggested by Discovery Central daycare youngsters — has given nature center visitors a better understanding of snapping turtles.

For example, because of its small bottom shell, or plastron, a snapper cannot retreat fully into its shell. Therefore, it has to resort to “snapping” to protect itself on land.

However, they’re generally not to be feared, at least by humans.

Shelldon is estimated to be 8 to 9 years old and is considered to be a young snapper. He could live up to 45 years or more and grow to over three times his current 17-pound weight.

According to the Michigan-based firm, Herpetological Resources and Management, the snapping turtle is common through Michigan and the Great Lakes region. The characteristics of an adult snapper is a broad carapace, or top shell, with pointed scutes at the rear edge. It has a large head with a short, pointed snout and sharp jaws with a hooked upper beak.

Although visitors can see these characteristics clearly when they view Shelldon in his current tank, his temporary enclosure is not specifically designed for snapping turtles, so he is outgrowing it. MooseWood’s goal is to provide him with a new and larger enclosure to allow him to swim freely and accommodate his size as he grows to maturity.

The enclosure will hold more than 430 gallons of water, with water depth to be about 2 feet.

A land basking area will allow Shelldon to come out of the water. The enclosure’s highlight will be a 6.5-by-3.5-foot glass front viewing area. Lighting will composed of LED backlights with two 150-watt ballasted mercury vapor bulbs.

The new enclosure will be 8 feet wide and 4 feet high, with a 4-foot depth, and use a 1,000-gallon pressure filter with a 1,200 gallon-per-hour pump or a canister filter. Access to the tank water will be via drop-down doors on both sides of the enclosure, which will have a removable wire cloth top.

Shelldon’s new home will be built by volunteers and made from locally secured lumber and marine grade plywood.

The Marquette Breakfast Rotary Club is supporting the project with a $1,500 grant, of which $1,000 will go toward the new enclosure and $500 toward future reptile-related school and public programming.

Alex Bott, MooseWood animal care supervisor, said in a news release: “The new enclosure will most importantly lead to his increased quality of life, also heightening community involvement and educational programs.”

MooseWood hopes to use GoFundMe contributions to improve Shelldon’s diet by offering more of his typical wild foods, which consist of aquatic vegetation and fish.

Contributions also can go toward proper veterinary care.

Gifts may be mailed to MooseWood Nature Center, P.O. Box 773, Marquette, MI 49855; dropped off at regular open hours; or given online at or via its Facebook page.

MooseWood, located along Peter White Drive on Presque Isle, is open from noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays or by appointment. It provides nature-related programming throughout the year and houses a variety of animals and exhibits.