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Snapping Turtles

Many people call slider-type turtles "snapping" turtles. However, there two genera of snapping turtles with several species and subspecies.

There are 2 genera of snapping turtles, both only occurring in
the Americas. Each has a number of subspecies over which the
taxonomists still haggle.

They are all characterized by massive heads, strong jaws,
keeled brown carapace, long tails, small and cross-shaped
plastron. They look rather like from the age of dinosaurs,
really. They occur in a variety of habitats, are
opportunistic feeders, and are very hardy.
In this species, males grow bigger than females.

Set up as water turtles. Keep outdoors in pond.

Snappers are carnivorous. Feed them feeder goldfish, worms, snails. Some will take dry food. They will eat anything they can catch, including: insects, crayfish, crabs, shrimp, water mites, clams, snails, earthworms, leeches, tubificid worms, freshwater sponges, fish (adults, fry, eggs), frogs, toads, tadpoles, and eggs, salamanders, snakes, small turtles, birds, and small mammals. Make greens available, such as water hyacynth in the pond.

Chelydra serpentina (American Snapping Turtle)

Grows to 19 inches (47 centimeters). Wild adults
reach 45 pounds (20 kg), well-fed captives up to
75 pounds (34 kg).

Highly aquatic, like to rest in warm shallows, buried
in the mud, with only eyes and nostrils exposed.
Snappers will eat everything. They are excellent swimmers,
have a serious bite (not arms, but fingers come off for sure).
These turtles have keels, but not as pronounced as the
Alligator snapper. Likes water to be shallow enough so it
can sit on the bottom and stick its nose to the surface.

Range is S. Alberta to Nova Scotia and south to the gulf.

Some consider snapper meat a delicacy, and excellent soups
are prepared from it. (Hey, it's better than eating sea turtles!)


Macroclemys temmincki (Alligator Snapping Turtle)

Largest freshwater turtle in the world. Reaches more
than 26 inches (66 centimeters). Record weight is
219 pounds (99.5 kg)!

Massive head with strongly hooked beak. Very long tail.
Carapace serrated in back with 3 strong prominent keels.
Can even be humps on the affected scutes.
Plastron pretty small.
Prefers deeper waters in rivers and lakes.
Only nesting females are known to leave the water.
Alligator snappers have a worm-like structure on their
tongue that acts as a lure when they rest on the bottom
with their mouth agape. This turtle will eat other turtles,
if it can catch them.
Likes water to be shallow enough so it
can sit on the bottom and stick its nose to the surface.

Mostly active at night.

Range is se. Georgia and Florida panhandle to e. Texas, north
to Iowa and Indiana.

What Snappers Eat

Snappers are carnivorous. Feed them feeder goldfish, worms,
snails. Some will take dry food. They will eat anything they
can catch, including: insects, crayfish, crabs, shrimp, water
mites, clams, snails, earthworms, leeches, tubificid worms,
freshwater sponges, fish (adults, fry, eggs), frogs, toads,
tadpoles, and eggs, salamanders, snakes, small turtles, birds,
and small mammals.
Do offer vegetables!

In Captivity

If you have a snapping turtle, you probably already know it.
Baby snappers are extremely cute!
...and they grow into very large, not so cute adults.
Unless you are prepared to give room and board to a
60 pound turtle with an attitude, put the turtle back to
where you found it!

Snappers do not bask often, however, a basking opportunity
must be offered.

A healthy snapper will look somewhat fat. Because of their
minimal plastron, their flesh is less "contained" within
the shell.

Refer to the water turtle care sheets for details on setups.
However, the best way to keep a snapper is outdoors. Once it
grows a bit bigger, you won't have to worry about raccoons--unless
you care about the raccoon, of course!

Reader Comments

"I have seen snappers in the early spring when there was still ice on the swamp
swimming and eating I just thought you would find that interesting from Long
Island N.Y.--THE DRU STAR"

"I have a captive bred snapping turtle that I hatched myself.
(There was a clutch of 32 eggs that were laid in a parking lot. I
rescued the eggs, and returned 31 of the 32 to their natural habitat.
The one I kept looked sickly.) I have had this turtle for over five
years now, and feed her nothing but Wardley's Reptile TEN. She is used
to it, she has no health problems, so I think I can say that this
product is nutritionally complete at least as far as snapping turtles
go. By the way, snapping turtles develop a preference for the first
things that they are fed or feed on in the wild." Rick Powell
Comments