A rare creature has been unearthed in the regeneration of Brooklands Lake in Worthing.
Workers removing silt as part of the project got a shock when they spotted something slithering around in the mud this week.
Like a scene from cult film the Creature from the Black Lagoon, arising from the depths was a fully-grown common snapping turtle, which was discovered hissing and looking put out that its habitat was being disturbed.
The engineers from environmental company Five Rivers managed to retrieve the female creature before it was swept up in the dredging work.
Because the company specialises in reviving natural habitats, engineers made sure they could find a new home for the turtle they named Terry.
Brooklands site manager for Five Rivers, Ben Sharp said: “We got quite a surprise when we saw it. We’ve discovered some weird and wonderful things during our work to clear lakes and rivers but never something quite like this.”
Ben and site technician Jimmy Griffiths searched for a suitable home for the turtle and found a shop called Littlehampton Exotics, in High Street, Littlehampton, which agreed to take her in.
Sales Assistant at the store Hayley Ashcroft said it was very rare for a common snapping turtle to be found in UK habitats. With many people looking for such animals after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle craze, it was usually terrapins that were dumped once they outgrew their tanks.
Hayley said: “She’s in a quarantine tank while we slowly warm her up. She’s a little bit docile at the moment but we expect her to be back to her snapping best soon. When that happens we’ll find her a nice sanctuary somewhere.”
Terry was probably hibernating deep in the Brooklands mud for the winter, especially with the recent cold snap so would have had a rude awakening.
Ben and Jimmy were lucky because common snapping turtles are well named. They can take a human finger off with their jaws and are usually at the top of the food chain in the natural habitat of North America and can live up to 100 years old.
In the frozen wilds they can go six months without breathing taking in oxygen through gas in the membranes of their mouths and throat.
Councillor Diane Guest, Worthing Borough Council’s executive member for environment, said: “We always known that Brooklands is a haven for wildlife. I can’t wait for the works to be completed which will mean nature will be able to thrive for generations to come.”
Terry is currently in quarantine at the Littlehampton Exotics shop and not receiving visitors at present, but once declared fit and healthy will likely be sent to a sanctuary for exotic animals.