Other Free Encyclopedias » Animal Life Resource » Dinosaurs, Snakes, and Other Reptiles » Snapping Turtles: Chelydridae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Snapping Turtles And People, Snapping Turtle (chelydra Serpentina): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, CONSERVATION STATUS

Snapping Turtles: Chelydridae - Snapping Turtle (chelydra Serpentina): Species Account

eggs guide females animal

Physical characteristics: The snapping turtle, or snapper, is a fairly large member of this family. The upper shell is up to 19.3 inches (49 centimeters) in length. The shell is dark, usually black to greenish-brown, and frequently covered with green, slimy algae (AL-jee), or plantlike growths. The upper shell and the long tail have a series of ridges. The shell ridges become less and less noticeable as the animal ages. Snapping turtles have large heads with a hook on the upper jaw.


Geographic range: Snapping turtles live in North America, Central America, and South America, from southern Canada to Ecuador.

During the breeding season, the female snapping turtle digs a hole on land. There, she lays up to 109 round eggs and buries them. The outdoor temperature controls the number of males and females in each batch of eggs. (E. R. Degginger/Bruce Coleman, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Habitat: These turtles typically live in plant-filled, shallow, calm waters with mucky bottoms. Most make their homes in freshwater areas, but some live quite well in somewhat salty waters.


Diet: Like most members of this family, the snapping turtle eats mostly meat. It is not a picky eater. Snapping turtles will eat earthworms and leeches; clams; insects and spiders; frog eggs, tadpoles, and adult frogs; reptiles, including other turtles; ducklings and other small birds; small mammals; and almost any dead animal they come across. Plants are not uncommon, and some populations of turtles even live by eating only plants.


Behavior and reproduction: Despite its usually slow walking speed on land, this turtle is amazingly swift when it comes to striking out with its powerful jaws to grab a passing animal as a meal or to defend itself against a large attacking animal or a person who is just a bit too curious. With its long neck, this turtle can swing its head forward, sideways, and backward almost half as far as it is long, and its powerful jaws can deliver a nasty bite to a person's hand or fingers.

For the most part, the snapping turtle stays in the water, where it spends most of its time sunbathing or hunting for food. To sunbathe, or "bask," the turtles float in warm water near or at the surface. Rarely, a snapper will bask on shore on a log or rock. They often hunt by hiding in the muddy bottom to wait for a tasty treat, like a fish or tadpole, to swim by. They also hunt by slowly walking along the water bottom and looking for their next meal. Turtles living in warmer climates are active day and night and all year long. Those living in cooler, northern areas are mostly active early and late in the day and spend the colder months buried underwater in the mucky bottom.

Mating season runs from spring to fall. Some males may sway their heads in front of females to attract them, but usually the males skip courtship altogether. Females lay one batch of eggs a year. Sometimes they make their nests, which are just holes they dig in the ground, close to the water, but they also may travel great distances, in some cases nearly 10 miles (16 kilometers). Females can lay six to 109 round, white eggs; they typically lay about thirty-two eggs per nest. The eggs hatch in about seventy-five to ninety-five days, but sometimes they hatch in as little as two months or as much as six months. Nest temperature controls the sex of the newly hatched young turtles. High and low temperatures produce females, and moderate temperatures produce males. Because a female can lay so many eggs at a time and the nest is so large, some parts of the nest may be warmer or cooler than others. This often means that females will hatch from one part of the nest and males from another.


Snapping turtles and people: Humans hunt snapping turtles for their meat. Many turtles also die each year from being hit by cars as they cross roads to move from a water hole to a nesting site and back.


Conservation status: These turtles are not threatened, although many snapping turtle eggs are destroyed each year when raccoons and other mammals dig up the freshly laid nests and eat the eggs. ∎

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Books:

Behler, John L., and F. Wayne King. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: Knopf, 1979.

Burnie, David, and Don E. Wilson, eds. Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife. London: Dorling Kindersley, 2001.

Conant, Roger, and Joseph T. Collins. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians: Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998.

Harding, J., and J. Holman. Michigan Turtles and Lizards: A Field Guide and Pocket Reference. East Lansing: Michigan State University Museum, 1990.

Hickman, Pamela. Turtle Rescue: Changing the Future for Endangered Wildlife. Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada: Firefly Books, 2004.

O'Keefe, M. Timothy. Sea Turtles: The Watcher's Guide. Lakeland, FL: Larsen's Outdoor Publishing, 1995.

Pritchard, P. C. H. The Alligator Snapping Turtle: Biology and Conservation. Milwaukee, WI: Milwaukee Public Museum, 1989.

Stebbins, Robert C. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.

Web sites:

"Common Snapping Turtle." Chesapeake Bay Program. http://www.chesapeakebay.net/info/snapping_turtle.cfm (accessed on September 14, 2004).

Dillon, C. Dee. "The Common Snapping Turtle" Tortuga Gazette 34, no. 3 (March 1998): 1–4. http://www.tortoise.org/archives/snapping.html (accessed on September 14, 2004).

LeClere, Jeff. "Snapping Turtle: Chelydra serpentine." Iowa Herpetology. http://www.herpnet.net/IowaHerpetology/reptiles/turtles/snapping_turtle.html (accessed on September 14, 2004).

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over 7 years ago

My husband and I were driving home and we hit a snapping turtle on the way. It was right in the middle of the road and my husband tried to straddle it so we wouldn't hit any oncoming traffic. We turned around to find the turtle lying on its back. I took a boot and turned her over to find a large but not deep hole right in the middle of her shell. We got her to bite the boot and took her off the road. Will she be okay? What can I do?

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over 5 years ago

I found a baby snapping turtle. I put in a small pond that is cold will it survive?

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over 5 years ago

Do they eat plants that are found on land or do they only eat underwater plants?

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over 6 years ago

hi

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over 6 years ago

you need to build a turtle fence to protect the turtles!!!!!!

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over 6 years ago

i found a spiny snapping turtle. what should i feed him?

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over 6 years ago

this website have alots of information that i can use but and do yall have a work site page so i can update things

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over 7 years ago

A snapping turtle severd head can snap for quite a while. I would not try to stick my finger near for at least a day

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over 8 years ago

When our barn was built the contractor left us a large hill of topsoil which we use to landscape around our home. This morning my husband started to fill some buckets with dirt only to discover what he thought was a huge rock in the dirt pile. Upon closer observation we noticed that this muddy rock was a snapping turtle and close to her head was a hole in the dirt pile filled with lots of large eggs. Just below the dirt pile there remains what was years ago a pond; and is now a slimy hole with cattails and lots of vegetation. Your article was most informative - thanks.

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over 9 years ago

I have a small water garden (pond, 10'x12' and 2.5' deep) in my southwestern Ohio garden. I saw the rear end of what I believe to be a snapping turtle this evening. I live within a mile of a small creek. How far do snapping turtles walk on land? Could this turtle have been living in my pond for awhile? This is the first I've seen it. Although I have noticed some odd shaped bites taken from my water lilies.

Thanks.

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over 9 years ago

I am watching a large (seems large) snapper in my drive way. Last year in the same spot we found a large female laying eggs as well. Since her nest was so large last year, I had to check this out to see how many eggs she may lay.



Thanks for the useful info.

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over 9 years ago

decades ago I was told that a decapitated snapper head could bite for hours after it was cut off.
Is that possible once the muscles are severed?

Another version of this story was that if one got bitten by a snapper and its head was cut off that it would remain locked on for 24 hours!

Any truth to that one?

thank you,

Aurora