Meet Chonkosarus. No it’s not a Pokemon — Chonkosarus is the name for a gigantic common snapping turtle that has become the unofficial mascot of the Chicago River.
The unusually large snapper became a local sensation when self-taught botanist Joey Santore spotted it while paddling on the North Branch earlier this month. He captured the moment in a now-viral tweet.
The common snapping turtle, Chelydra serpentina, typically grows up to a foot long and up to 35 pounds — Chonkosaurus appears to be on the larger side.
Common snappers are found throughout large parts of the eastern U.S., the Midwest and the Plains states. Here in Chicago, the turtles are usually found living in shallow ponds or streams, including the Chicago River, Lake Michigan and smaller lagoons.
Below are some of the locations that people have spotted common snapping turtles on the website iNaturalist.org:West Ridge Nature Park
5801 N. Western Ave.
North Pond Nature Sanctuary
2500 N. Stockton Ave.
Foster and Cicero avenues
Henry C. Palmisano Nature Park
2700 S. Halsted St.
Big Marsh Park
11559 S. Stony Island Ave.
5100 N. Francisco Ave.
Along Kingsbury Street in Old Town
Snappers can often be elusive since they spend most of their time in the water. If you do get a chance to see one, observe them at a distance. Snapping turtles are omnivores; they typically eat plants but can scavenge for fish and other water creatures.
“If you want to see things like the Chonkosaururs and more wildlife, you just have to plant native plants,” Santore says. “You plant the native plants and everything will start to come back.”
Matt Kiefer contributed to this report.
Ola Giwa and Matt Kiefer are data journalists with WBEZ.