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(WHNT) — Alligator snapping turtles could get new protections as U.S. officials propose listing the species as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the proposal comes after data indicated the species had experienced overharvesting for meat consumption, impacts on nest predation, and other recreational or illegal fishing activities.

Alligator snapping turtles, sometimes called the “dinosaurs of the turtle world,” is the largest freshwater turtle in North America with males able to weigh up to 249 pounds.

Their name comes from their large jaws and shells that resemble an alligator.

“The impacts of overharvesting and other human activities, along with the reality that they take up to 21 years to reproduce combined to put the alligator snapping turtle in peril,” said Leopoldo Miranda-Castro, the Service’s Regional Director for the South Atlantic-Gulf and Mississippi-Basin regions.

Resources from the National Wildlife Foundation state listing a species as “threatened” or “endangered” provides special protections from the federal government.

These animals are protected from being traded or sold, or “take,” which covers all instances involving hunting, harming, trapping, killing, or collecting the animal.

“The Service will continue to work with all the state agencies to gather the necessary science to conserve and manage this iconic species,” Miranda-Castro concluded.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has scheduled a virtual hearing for public comments on December 7 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. To access the hearing, register here.