Basil needs a bigger tank


Basil the snapping turtle is one of the most popular animals at the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum.

"He's awesome," said Michael Clough, assistant museum director, "Everyone thinks that snapping turtles are these vicious, awful animals. In the summertime, we'll take this guy up on the lawn and he'll just sit next to me and hang out. Unfortunately, that's why he can't go back into the wild."

Basil is not afraid of humans and does not seem to be afraid of dogs, Clough said.

But his relaxed character puts him at a disadvantage in his natural


Basil has outgrown his space at the museum and Clough is raising money for a new tank. Donations are being made at The hope is to raise $5,500.

"And that's with [the museum] donating delivery and insulation," Clough said. "So it's really just the cost of constructing the tank. It's a custom tank. We can't just go to the pet store and buy it."

As offline donations come in, Clough has lowered the figure on the GoFundMe page in an effort to be transparent. He called the experience "a bit of a learning curve for us."

Donors are contributing everything from $5 to $500.

"It's our first time trying crowdfunding," Clough said. "It's a bit of an experiment. We have a long wish list so it will be interesting to see how it works. We got some great support."

At about 4-by-6-feet wide and 3 feet tall, the new tank would allow Basil to swim around. Once the money is raised, Clear Solutions in Keene, N.H., will build it.

Clough said the process should take about three weeks. The goal is to have a tank that will last the turtle's lifetime.

The Bennington-based Trust For Wildlife brought Basil to the museum about five years ago.

"They had gotten him from some kids who got him basically as an illegal pet and kept him for a couple years," said Clough.

Since the museum started taking care of the turtle, he has grown from 3 pounds to 12 pounds. Eventually, Clough expects him to weigh more than 30 pounds and stretch out more than 2 feet long. Clough said the original tank was never intended for a turtle that size. Plus, he added, "It's old and awfully beat up."

"It overflowed to a point where the front came off it," Clough said. "We rebuilt it and have continuously been rebuilding ever since. Now we're rebuilding something that's not really appropriate for him."

Basil got his moniker a few years ago. The museum had polled guests and friends to name animals at the museum.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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