Local family helping snapping turtle get new home

BENNINGTON — A local family has stepped up to help Basil the snapping turtle get a new home for Christmas.

Basil, one of the more popular animals at the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum in Marlboro, has outgrown his tank. When Michael Clough, the museum's assistant director, announced earlier this week that the museum was seeking $5,500 for a new tank, the news spread quickly. The response, he said, has been "absolutely overwhelming."

With more than $4,000 already raised, a Bennington family that wishes to remain anonymous has pledged to match all donations, dollar-for-dollar, from now until midnight Christmas Eve. "They said that they would like to see Basil get a new home for Christmas," Clough said.

Basil's life in captivity began with another Bennington family, who brought him home as a baby in 2009. He was eventually turned in to the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum, where he's given visitors from across the Northeast a greater understanding of snapping turtles.

"With his early exposure to people, state fish and wildlife biologists felt he would be unable to survive in the wild," Clough said. "However, that same comfort has made him a fantastic education animal; he's the snapper who doesn't snap."

Clough is doing his part to help the snapping turtle overcome what he feels is an undeserved reputation. Because they're unable to take refuge in their shells because of their soft underbellies, and are pretty slow on land, he notes, "biting is pretty much all they've got when they're not in the water.

"We hope to make people think twice when they see that poor mom trying to cross the road."

Basil now weighs about 12 pounds, or a third of his expected fully-grown weight. The kind of tank he requires can't be found on the shelf at a pet store, but Clear Solutions of Keene, N.H. has offered to build one for $5,500, and to install it for free.

The new tank would measure about 4 by 6 feet and stand 3 feet tall, giving Basil room to swim. The intention is to make a tank that Basil won't ever outgrow.

The museum started a GoFundMe campaign on Nov. 28 (www.gofundme.com/basils-fund), which as of Tuesday morning had generated $1,815. With other donations, the museum stood just $1,455 from its goal.

Clough said that donations can be made through GoFundMe, or by contacting the museum at 802-464-0048 or vermontmuseum@gmail.com.


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