Council Bluffs snapping turtle and his owner make a splash

A Council Bluffs snapping turtle named Tank is quite the celebrity.
A Council Bluffs snapping turtle named Tank is quite the celebrity.
Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 6:56 PM CDT
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COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (WOWT) - In Council Bluffs, there’s a room where the bed is always wet. Tank the Turtle likes it that way.

“He’s a common snapping turtle,” said Steve Gilfillan, Tank’s caretaker. “They’re common throughout most of the United States, except for west of the Rockies.”

Tank is a 40-pound snapping turtle and he has his own bedroom. Tank is 15 years old, and has grown quite a bit over the years.

“I called him my pocket turtle, he fit in my pocket,” Gilfillan said. “I’ve got a few photos of him when he was just a baby.”

Steve says his turtle thinks he’s a dog.

“He’s got canine qualities. He’ll follow me wherever I go...get him out, he’ll see me sitting on the couch, he wants to sit on the couch too, he’ll get up here and sit with me,” he said.

Steve did have to jump through a few hoops in order for Tank to live legally in his home. Turtles are on the dangerous animal list in Council Bluffs.

“I don’t know how he got on the list that he got on,” Steve said. “I mean, we’re talking about lions, tigers and bears and snapping turtles.”

Tank got a waiver from the Department of Health -- and he even has a job. Tank and Steve travel together to schools and teach students about turtles. The kids even get to touch his skull. Tank has his own business cards and Facebook page.

“When he posts something on his page, he does all his posting. I put him in front of the keyboard and let him go,” he said.

Steve says Tank is nice and docile. He says he wouldn’t keep him if he wanted to bite all the time.

Keeping this unusual pet has given Steve an unusual reputation around town.

“Obviously they think I’m the crazy turtle guy,” he said.

Snapping turtles can live to be more than 100 years old -- so most likely, Tank will one day need another caretaker.

“He’s going to outlive me, and he may outlive my son,” Steve said. “My son’s going to take care of him when I pass along. He’s taken care of...he’s in my will. There will be money set aside for him.”

Tank has become quite the celebrity in Council Bluffs -- and that fame has kind of rubbed off on Steve.

“I went into...I can’t even remember the name of the store, went up to the counter and the lady looked at me and she goes, ‘Hey, you’re Tank’s dad,’...yeah, I guess I am,” Steve said.

Steve says Tank probably couldn’t survive in the wild, so he will never be released.