But in September of 2004, workers draining L.L. as part of a $2 million restoration project, discovered the monster, known to locals as Old Bob, who turned out to be a 100-pound alligator snapping turtle. Pictures from that day showed a pissed-off reptile, plucked from the mud, with fierce jaws agape.
Though he was to be shipped to Virginia to live out his days at a nature preserve, he ended up living in an undisclosed location here in California, and little was heard of him since his removal from the lake eight years ago.
Sadly, the Weekly has recently learned Old Bob is snatching angels from beneath the clouds.
"Sad as it is to say, Old Bob died a couple years back," said Sharon Paquette, President of the Orange County Chapter of the California Turtle and Tortoise Club. "It had nothing to do with being moved and nothing to do with his care."
Paquette, whose non-profit organization took
custody of Bob following his discovery, said a necropsy wasn't performed, but that she believes Bob died from either liver or kidney disease, possibly liver cancer.
"Normally what comes back is their liver or kidneys fail," Paquette said.
Explaining that the CTTC is funded solely by donations and provides rescue and adoption services, the decision not to necropsy was made due to cost considerations.
"Financially we have to prioritize," Paquette said.
Though she declined to reveal the exact location where Old Bob lived out his final days, Paquette said he was well-cared for.
"He had a beautiful pond that was custom built for him," Paquette said. "And a waterfall he loved. There was a cave and fish underneath."
Typically found in southeastern states such as Texas, Oklahoma, and Florida, alligator snappers aren't native to California where it's illegal to own them. Old Bob was likely a pet who had grown too big to care for and was dumped in the lake by his owner. Estimated to be 50 years old, his legend stretched back 42 years. In the Laguna Lake file kept in the local history room of the Fullerton Public Library, there's an email exchange between Fullerton Police Officer Mike Davinroy and city spokesman Sylvia Palmer.
"I think that is the very same turtle that bit off my line in 1955," Davinroy wrote. "Could be wrong, it looks lots bigger now. By the way, back then everyone in town called it Bass & Cherry Lake (Bastanchury)."
But Fullerton wasn't the unlikeliest spot to find such a creature--that honor may go to Washington D.C.
According to the United States Geological Survey,
back in 1994 one of the critters was found in the reflecting pool at the national mall (good thing Slick Willy didn't go for a skinny dip that day.)
With a face only a mother could love, alligator snapping turtles are capable of clamping their beak-like maw with more than 300 pounds of force. Their tongues mimic the appearance of worms, and when an unsuspecting fish swims into their mouths expecting a treat, the trap slams shut.
Though there have been reports of amputated fingers, the turtles are not believed to be aggressive. In many cases, lost digits result from careless handling (hey Ma, watch me stuff my finger in this here critter's pretty mouth!)
Paquette, who refers to Old Bob as the love of her life, said that her fascination with animals like him stems from their evolutionary fortitude.
"They're so prehistoric," she said. "They survived where the dinosaurs couldn't. They're a very unique animal."
Lamenting careless owners who bring them into the state, Paquette said people can turn their unwanted snappers into the CTTC, no questions asked.
"They don't ask to be brought into California," she said. "When they outgrow their welcome, people just dump them."