Snapping Turtle

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Family: Chelydridae
Genus: Chelydra
Species: C. serpentina
Binomial Name: Chelydra serpentina

The ordinary snapping turtle belongs to the family Chelydridae and is a large fresh water turtle. In nature their range extends southwest of the boundary of Rocky Mountains to the Southwest of Canada and faraway east of Nova Scotia and Florida. Their binomial name is “turtle, Chelydra serpentine.”


The snapping turtle also possesses a shell or carapace that encloses their back just like other turtles. The snapping turtle has a shell length of around 8 to8 ½ inches. Their shell color varies from deep brown to tan, or even black. In the course of its growth, mud and algae coat the snapping turtle’s shell. The tail length of the snapping turtle is equal to the length of its shell and a sharp ridge runs right through its length. Its head is dark in color, while its tail, legs and necks have a yellow hue. Its mouth has a beak shape, bony, strong and toothless. The snapping turtle’s skin is rough, having distinctive bumps on their legs and necks called “tubercles”. They have webbed feet with sturdy claws.

A plastron which is a hard plate, covers the stomach of turtles. The plastron of the snapping turtle being small, you can see much of its body. This signifies that unlike other turtles, snapping turtles cannot draw their head and legs into their shell to shield themselves from attack. Snapping turtles compensate for this deficiency of body shields by their violent behavior.

READ MORE:  Hawksbill Sea Turtle

Weight: 8.81 to 35.24 lb; 4.0 to 16.0kg

Length: 7.87 to 17.72 in; 20.0 to 45.0 cm

Status: Wild


Snapping Turtle

The native habitat of the snapping turtles is the Nearctic region. This area extends from the central part of Texas and the south of the Gulf of Mexico, Southern Alberta eastwards to Nova Scotia in Canada. The snapping turtle dwells only in the brackish or fresh water. They favor muddy basins with plenty of plants to hide with ease. Snapping turtles dwell throughout in the water, but leave the waters only to lay eggs on the sandy beaches. We find these turtles in the marshes, swampy wetlands, temperate fresh water, Aquatic Biomes streams, ponds, rivers and lakes.


In nature, the snapping turtle lives for approximately for 30 years. Snapping turtles are most in danger when they are hatching. When they attain a particular age, they have only few predators, but vehicles often hit them close to their nesting region or ponds while foraging for food. In captivity their lifespan extends to 47 years.


Snapping turtles are loners, meaning they live all alone. Although a number of turtles are at times seen is a smaller region, their aggression leads to restricted communal contacts among themselves, especially the males. The food availability is a determining factor in the turtle population in a particular location. Once out of the water, the snapping turtles turn ferocious, but they become passive when they return to the water. Snapping turtles enjoy burying themselves in the mud and exposing only their nostrils and eyes. This act of burying surprises the prey. At the end of the tongue of the snapping turtle there is a tiny growth which resembles a squirming worm. To catch a fish the snapping turtle opens its mouth in such a way that only the ‘worm’ is seen, as soon as the fish come to the worm the snapping turtle captures the fish with its sturdy jaws.

READ MORE:  Reeve's Turtles


Snapping turtles face their mates and communicate with the movements of their legs. Snapping turtles detect their prey by their sense of vision, touch and smell and react to vibrations in the water. The Channels of Communication are chemically tactile and visual. Channels of Perception are chemically tactile and visual sensations.


The snapping turtles consume whatever comes to the reach of their jaws. These animals are omnivores and eat amphibians, insects, dead animals, fish, birds, little mammals and astonishingly plenty of aquatic vegetation. Snapping turtles bite off the heads of other turtles and kill them. This action, possibly prevents other turtles from encroaching into their territory. They also feed on animal foods such as mollusks, reptile eggs, carrion, insects, mammals, amphibians as well as vegetation like algae and leaves.

Their Predators and Defense Mechanisms

Snapping Turtle

Other species of large turtles, foxes, bullfrogs, water snakes, great blue herons, raccoons, skunks, crows and the big predatory fish like the largemouth bass are likely to consume the hatchlings and eggs of the snapping turtles. But once the snapping turtles grow big enough, only some animals continue as their predators. Snapping turtles are very violent and they fight viciously.

Do They Cause Problems?

Human’s favorite fish are at times consumed by the snapping turtles, but the impact is not grave since they do not eat a lot. Snapping turtles also prey on grown up geese and ducks, but still the effect is very little.

READ MORE:  Western Pond Turtle

Their Interaction with Human Beings

Snapping turtle meat is a favorite ingredient in turtle soups and stews Many rituals performed by the Native Americans use the shells of snapping turtles. They even make rattles out of the dried shells with corn kernels inside.

Are They Endangered?

Snapping turtles are not endangered in population or in fear of extinction. But the continuous ruination of ponds is likely to bring down their number later on. Some people use the snapping turtles for food and this leads to an impact on their population, however small the numbers.

As a Pet

Snapping Turtle

Many people have reported rearing snapping turtles as pets and even breeding them to hatch them from eggs. You can hardly tame these animals. However, they are clever and hold a strong appeal to hobbyists. When they are adults the best place to keep them is in a cattle watering tank. They require shallow waters. Filter the water, but do not use sponge filters, because they tear them down. De-chlorinate tap water and then use it.

Basking rock is not essential for them; they usually bask on the surface of the water by floating.

They are carnivores; they consume insects, crawdads, fish, mice, worms and at times pellets,

Important Clarifications:

The common snapping turtle bites badly, however, they cannot bite off a finger of an adult. They are toothless.

The snapping turtle grows up to 10” in diameter. Many people suggest that they are not good to keep as pets. They snap (so their name) and it pains. They are animals of the wild – hence leave them back in the pond where you found them.

Leave a Comment