Common Snapping Turtle

by Justin on September 12, 2007

Common Snapping Turtle

Common Snapping Turtle

Out of all of the things that most turtles have as a stereotype including, harmless, slow, and cute, The Common Snapping Turtle has to be the one to break all of the commonalities. Like the “Fish to Avoid” Article this is the “Turtle to Stay Avoid” article. Unless you have a fascination with turtles or are the adventurous type I would have to suggest you not try and find one of these prehistoric looking beasts.

These “Common” turtles occur throughout the whole of North America, from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Atlantic Coast to the Rocky Mountains. The Snapping Turtle that is widely known to be aggressive is not normally so unless it is taken out of its natural watery habitat. For the most part Snapping Turtles do not leave they’re underwater habitat only rarely to bask on nearby banks or rocks.

Easy to identify these dinosaur aged creature haven’t changed much from the time they first appeared way back in prehistoric ages. With its large head and brown, olive, and black shell which has many sharp looking edges and almost spikes, it is hard not to know what it is when you see one. The underside of its shell is very small and is yellowish in color with the rest of the turtle’s skin being a gray or tan. Its legs are often heavily scaled along with long claws and webbed feet. Then you have the very long tail which has three rows of scales which is normally the same length as the shell.

Living in streams, slow moving rives and creeks, and sometimes ponds Snapping Turtles are omnivorous and live on insects, fish and crestations, and a lot of their diet is made up on local vegetation.

Mating and Egg lying can take place over a long span of time anywhere between April and November, with hatchling numbering from 20 – 40 per female. Although most hatchlings succumb to birds or other Snapping Turtles as prey.

The Common Snapping Turtle really has no natural predators besides Humans who mainly will kill it for its use in turtle soup (can’t say I have tried it myself!) but they can also fall victim to Coyote, Bear and Alligators. In the wild if able to avoid Humans and predators Snapping Turtles have been known to live upwards of 40 years, but people who do keep these creatures as pets notice not nearly this span of years.

18 comments… read them below or add one

jeremy williamson June 13, 2008 at 8:28 pm

I had just saw one in the creek behind my work! It was about two feet in width and three feet long. don’t know how long it has been there but it looks like he dug a cavern into the embankment of the creek about 4 feet in. very awesome looking creature!!!! Sad to hear that people eat these things. gross!!!!!
It was at the krc rock in poway, CA. Southern California


Justin June 16, 2008 at 9:54 am


That’s a big snapping turtle! My neighbor hooked one while catfishing. It was maybe 10-12 inches wide and 15 inches long. He put alot of work into getting a little meat. This thing had a huge head I would hate to get bitten by it.


Mary June 20, 2008 at 8:57 pm

My husband just found a huge snapping turtle in our side yard last Saturday! It was huge…and not in a good mood. It was about 2ft wide and 3ft long, plus tail. We were able to round him up into a plastic bin until we could figure out where he came from. We eventually put him in a neighbors pond. Far, far away! lol


Justin June 22, 2008 at 9:48 pm


You must be in Cincy/NKY with your e-mail address, me too! I’m in Florence KY. It seems like the neighbor catches alot of snapping turtles when he’s out fishing for catfish.


jackie July 10, 2008 at 2:07 pm

I have had two snapping turtle wander into my garage this summer. Both were about 10-12 inches in length including head and tail. Does anyone know why considering there is no water near my home???? Oh, I live in the Ozarks of Missouri. Both turtles were taken to the nearest creek and released not by me LOL….


Jo Turtle July 14, 2008 at 3:21 pm

Yes, my last name is Turtle. Much teasing when I was a youngster. Mary, I do pray that you asked the neighbors permission because snappers are voracious fish eating creatures.
Here in Michigan they are unwanted guests at ponds as people pay $500.00 and more for fish for their backyard ponds. More disliked than turtles are the blue herrons.



Justin July 14, 2008 at 8:58 pm

Jo: I didn’t think about how they are big fish eaters. Always get permission from the land owner before dumping anything that is not from a pond/area into a pond or area. When you were a teenager you didn’t happen to be a ninja did you? 🙂


Lisa May September 7, 2008 at 1:07 pm

We just had a snapper here in Maine. A friend found it on the side of a busy road, we have a brook out behind out house…he’s was a big guy, I’d say a foot and a half long, a foot wide…big head!!! He was irritated so we used bungee cords to pick him up by his shell to get him down to the water…he was NOT impressed at first but then went along for the ride down the hill LOL. No worries, he’s not injured by any means, but I didn’t want him here on my lawn with my dog! What a big bugga!


Brian September 13, 2008 at 2:04 pm

All the photo’s I’ve seen lead me to believe I have just captured a snapping turtle. However, it is quite small – about 4 inches from tip-to-tip. How old/young would someone guess this one to be? Can these be kept as pets while small? When does the instinct to snap kick in?


Justin September 15, 2008 at 7:36 am

Brian: I wouldn’t recommend keeping it as a pet period. I do not know for sure when the snapping sets in but you do not want to be the first to find out. From what I have read you have to cut their head off to get loose.


Karen of northern Minnesota October 6, 2008 at 9:54 pm

A week ago, we saw a medium-size snapper (the shell was about about 10 inches long) cross from the lake to the woods. When my friend approached it, it did not seem fearful at all and did not retreat into its shell. Is this normal? And why would it leave the lake and head into the deep woods in the fall? Are they still laying eggs at this time of year? Or do they hibernate? Temps here in northern Minnesota are between 40 and 60 degrees in the fall.


Steve Dobson November 28, 2008 at 8:24 am

Brian asked about keeping them as pets, well, we had one for about two years.
My daughter rescued it when a bird dropped it.
The gulls must have found a recently hatched nest and were picking off the little ones as they dashed to the lake.
Anyway, it was about 2 inches long when she brought it home. After it got to about six inches long we figured it was time to release it back to the wild.
She loved it. I didn’t
You know how kittens and puppies are cute? Baby Snapping Turtles aren’t. They are as homely from day one as they are when fully grown.
And, they will bite the hand that feeds them too.
Gilbert, as he was called, was never really tame just more or less calm and really too lazy to make much of an effort to snap at you.


Steve Dobson´s last blog post..Lessons Learned as a Boy Scout


sarah December 26, 2008 at 10:46 pm

Hi Im Sarah,

I have a snapping turtle and i call him Dino! i had him for about 2 1/2 years people that had him wasn’t caring right with him so i took him home and now i love him. But for about 4 days i notice a change on his shell It’s Red and his mouth is a little Red, can someone tell me is that a bad thing or is he changing and it’s OK??? I don’t want to lose he or let him go he’s my baby! the people who had them had him when he was very little and now he’s bigger then my hand. he hot and a great friend to me cause he’s the only one that doesn’t brother me, like my kids do…LOL but he’s great and i really need to know about the change of his shell!!!

Thank you, Sarah


James "Black Bear" Mann February 24, 2009 at 5:15 am

I certainly would not get too close to a big snapping turtle I have childhood memories of fishing and hooking a snapping turtle. I was scared half to death and thought for sure it was going to get in the boat and start chewing on us.

Even my dad was freakin’ a bit and hitting it with the orr trying to get it to let go of the bait. It’s a wonder we didn’t end up in the lake there was so much commotion happening.

We still laugh about that night so many years ago and I think it gets bigger and meaner every time we tell the story.

James “Black Bear” Mann´s last blog post..Want A Black Bear Hunt in New Brunswick Just Don’t Know Any Outfitters or Guides?


Big Hank June 6, 2009 at 6:43 pm

What a fascinating read! I feel lucky on behalf of my wife and kids after all my years camping all over N. America that we’ve avoided this terrifying looking creature! I, on the other hand, would not mind seeing one from a healthy distance. I’ve just now googled some pictures and they look just like you said – completely prehistoric! That thing’s a walking dinosaur in a half shell!


Jesse August 19, 2009 at 9:45 pm

Here in Southern Indiana we catch snappers by noodling for them. It can be dangerous and I don’t recommend trying this until you’ve been out several times with some experienced turtle hunters. Most of the old boys that do this grew up with it and know their waterways. It’s helpful to have at least 2 people along on a hunt. One to carry the sack and one noodling. We move upstream wading in mud-bottomed streams carefully reaching and feeling along with a light touch under the bank and drifts until you feel the back of the turtle. Find the rear end of the critter and grab him by the tail. You dont want to grab the business end of these bad boys. Don’t get bit putting him into the sack either. And dont throw the sack over your shoulder to carry. I’m sure you can guess why. Turtle soup, gumbo, or skillet fried turtle, a fine reward for a sucessful hunt but this technique is not for the faint hearted!


Justin August 20, 2009 at 9:18 am

Jesse you’re nuts! Is that why so many people are missing fingers in Southern Indiana? 🙂 Around here the neighbor usually catches them on a hook when he’s out catfishing.


Tony Lee September 26, 2009 at 7:40 pm

I live in California and as much outdoor stuff we as we do, haven’t seen one. As I understand, they are illegal here, but are sometimes known to be strolling around. The Fish and Game folks find and relocate them when found. I do think that all species of turtle are magnificent animals. Their(Snapper)Latin translation of “Chelydra serpentina” should stand for “Don’t touch, if you want to keep your fingers”.

I have seen their cousin, the Desert Tortoise down in the “Mojave” and “High Desert” here in California. They are an endangered and protected gentle creature that ads beauty to the Southwest!


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