In a disturbing case, a science teacher in Idaho is being investigated after reports he fed a puppy to a snapping turtle… in front of his students. 

The Preston School District 201 became aware of "a regrettable circumstance involving some of the biological specimens" on March 7 - and we'd say that's putting it lightly. 

According to Superintendent Marc Gee, the event occurred after students had been dismissed and "was not part of any school-directed program". He also emphasised that no students or staff had been in danger.

Details are thin on the ground and it's unclear at this point whether the dog was dead or alive when it was fed to the turtle - although local animal activist Jill Parrish told KSTU-TV that the puppy was sick, and was alive when fed to the snapping turtle.

"Allowing children to watch an innocent baby puppy scream because it is being fed to an animal. That is violence. That is not okay," said Parrish.

Do turtles eat dogs?

While it's pretty unfathomable to imagine why someone would feed a puppy to a turtle - particularly in front of students - snapping turtles are omnivorous and are known to eat plants, birds, crayfish, fish, and even small mammals.

It's not clear which species of snapping turtle was involved in this case, but the common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) is widespread across North America and on average grows to around 28.5 cm (11.2 inches) in shell length. Adults usually weigh around 6 kg (13 pounds).

Alligator snapping turtles (Macrochelys temminckii) are larger, and can grow up to 80 cm (31 inches) in length, and weigh up to 80 kg (176 pounds), although they're not naturally found in Idaho.

Snapping turtles spend most of their time hanging motionless in the water waiting for something to eat, and then lunge forward at high speed to seize their prey with their powerful jaws - hence the name, snapping turtle.

So while it's not out of the realm of possibility that a small puppy could become a meal for a snapping turtle, it's hard to imagine exactly what the teacher was trying to achieve with this gruesome demonstration.

The teacher in question is Robert Crosland, who is apparently popular with students for his collection of exotic snakes and other animals.

Three former students told EastIdahoNews that Crosland had previously fed guinea pigs to snakes and snapping turtles during classroom demonstrations.

"He is a cool teacher who really brought science to life," a former student told EastIdahoNews. "I loved his class because he had turtles and snakes and other cool things."

Police have been contacted, but Crosland has not yet been charged or placed on leave from his job. The school district is taking steps to ensure "this type of action could not be repeated" and have asked for patience throughout the investigation.

"While the district certainly does not condone individual actions that may violate district policy or reasonable expectations of behavior, we hope that any errors in judgment made by a teacher in this instance will not cause us to forget the years of care, effort and passion the teacher has given to students in Preston School District," said Gee.