HOLMBERG: Mystery monster turtle in Henricus park

Posted at 12:44 AM, Jun 12, 2013

CHESTER, Va. (WTVR) - There’s no question there is a herd of turtles in the so-called Fly Ash Pond in Henricus Park, which looks quite swamp like.

There are painted turtles galore,  musk turtles, some sliders perhaps.

And some pretty good-sized snapping turtles.

But there’s also something else.

Something huge. Something so ominous, wood ducks paddle the surface seemingly on high alert.

Photographer Brent Cavedo visits almost every day during his dinner break to relax and take photos of the wildlife.

That’s when he saw it.

“What is this thing, a mutant? This is unbelievable,” he recalled thinking when he saw it and lifted his long-lens camera to shoot the images that can be seen with this video report.

“I thought maybe it was a snapping turtle,” he added. “But the back was like a big M shape. And I thought, ‘what is this guy?’”

Based on his photography and wildlife experience, he guesses the turtle was 6 feet long from its bug-eyed snout to the end of its whip-like tail. He thinks there may be more than one, perhaps.

“He couldn’t sleep when he saw the big one,” recalled his wife, Judy Cavedo. “He was up all night, Googling it, just excited, just wondering.”

Larry Moody has been photographing that swamp for at least 20 years. He’s there virtually every day, year ‘round, sitting like a statue. He says he hasn’t seen any unknown 6-footers, but he has seen some huge snappers. “Like 50-75 pounds,” he said. “They get right good-sized. They’ll bite your finger off if you mess with them.” (According to local lore, Moody waded out into the swamp to try to save a duck that had been nabbed by a big snapper.)

Terry Kenyon has also seen the big snappers in the reedy, leafy, mysterious looking body of water in the shadow of Dominion’s vast, coal-fired power plant.

But he, too, has seen the giant turtle, independently of Cavedo. He’s pretty sure it’s not a snapper.   “I’ve never seen nothing like it before,” Kenyon said. “Swamp monster. It’s got two humps on its back rather than a smooth shell or like a snapping turtle – spiny on the back.”

We sent one of Cavedo’s photos to the Department of Game and Island Fisheries. A wildlife expert said he’d like to see more images before he can venture a guess. Perhaps it was two turtles separated by a log, was one opinion.

Cavedo himself wondered the same thing. “I thought it was synchronized swimming.”

But as he watched the vast body swim through the swamp as one unit,  he knew this was something completely different.