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NEW ORLEANS — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing threatened status for alligator snapping turtles — huge, spike-shelled beasts that lurk at the bottom of slow waterways, luring prey to their mouths by extending a wormlike lure.

Every state in their range now protects them, but the lingering effects of catching the reptiles for turtle soup are among the reasons their numbers are now so low.

They once were found in Kansas and Indiana, but their territory now spans 12 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas.

According to, Common Snapping Turtles are nowhere as big as large alligator snappers. The Common Snapping Turtle also lacks the three prominent keels on the upper shell and have eyes positioned on the side of the head. An Alligator Snapping Turtle has a strongly hooked jaw and laterally-positioned eyes.

Also, Common Snapping Turtles occasionally cross roads and move over wetlands, Alligator Snapping Turtles only leave the water to nest.

The federal agency on Monday posted a preview of a Federal Register notice planned for Tuesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.