Mayor Andreas Lieb said he would catch the fugitive turtle with a giant rope-pulled rake which would churn up the muddy floor of the lake thought to be reptile’s refuge.
For the past seven weeks, authorities in the Bavarian town of Irsee have keeping their eyes peeled for the bite-happy snapping turtle thought to be residing in the nearby Oggenreider lake.
Nicknamed Lotti, the creature struck fear into a southern Germany town after severing an eight-year-old boy’s Achilles tendon while he was swimming.
After analyzing the bite, experts said they believed it to be from the jaws of an Alligator snapping turtle, the world’s largest freshwater turtle.
“Our people are there three to four times every day looking for the turtle,” Lieb told newspaper the Bild, but with the search having so far turned up nothing, the mayor said he had a new plan up his sleeve.
“We’ll get her out of the sludge with a giant rake,” he said, adding that he had commissioned the village blacksmith Hans Kohlhund, 75, to create the massive tool, which should be ready to deploy in three to four weeks.
Pulled by a system of ropes, the plan is to use the metre-wide, wrought-iron rake to dredge the whole of the 16,000 metre-squared lake floor and force Lotti out of her muddy hideaway.
However Lieb is determined to catch Lotti alive and well and insists the rake is not intended as a weapon. “The teeth shouldn’t be pointed, but blunt so that the creature isn’t hurt,” he said.
In extreme cases Alligator turtles, which are known for their aggressive demeanor, can live to 200 years old.
Lieb said he was concerned Lotti could turn out to be one of a type of Alligator turtles which has been known to hibernate for up to two years in mud and slime. The creatures are “masters of disguise,” said Lieb, “in the sludge they can’t be seen.”
Having tried everything, including dredging the lake, scouring the lake floor with hunting dogs, surrounding the lake with an electric fence and setting up traps around lake to prevent Lotti slipping away, there has been no sign of the reptile.
The lake has now been partially refilled with water covering about a fifth of the floor, at a depth of about 20 cm in order to entice the reptile into a smaller piece of ground.
A group of girls from the area have taken the attack tongue in cheek, putting up laminated posters on trees by the lake with a photograph of a snapping turtle. The posters read: “Beware, Lotti lives here.” “Beware, snappy.”
“If an Alligator snapping turtle has really hidden itself in the slime, we’ll get it,” said Lieb.