Snapping Turtle

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Turtles Animal Control

Peak Nuisance Period: Spring through Fall

Common Nuisance Situations:

  • In smaller ponds, their scat can be extremely odorous
  • Snapping Turtles may easily mistake your fingers or other body parts as food. Their bite can cause severe pain and infections.
  • Will eat Koi, frogs and other delights found in residential ponds.

Animal Characteristics

Description: The head of snapping turtles is approximately triangular, and the mouth is large, with sharp jaw surfaces adapted mostly for cutting. Turtles have no teeth. They have several barbels that are located on the chin. Those probably serve as an increased surface for oxygen uptake. The neck is very long (about as long as the carapace), and so is the tail which has three rows of spines (tubercules) on the upper (dorsal) side. The four legs are very short and massive with large curved scales on the front edges.

As a turtle moves forward they lie flat against the skin, but when it pushes backwards with its legs in a swimming motion they stand up and provide an increased surface to push against. The feet are webbed and about as large as a human hand in large individuals. They have 5 claws on each of the two front feet and 4 on each of the hind feet. The underside (ventral side) of snapping turtles is very delicate and soft,and covered with numerous papillae again to increase the area for oxygen uptake. The coloration of snapping turtles ranges from almost black to light coffee brown for all the dorsal surfaces. The soft skin underneath is yellowish to light brownish, sometimes even with a reddish tinge. The jaws have black stripes. Turtles hibernate typically in water sources burrowed below the frost line.

Diet: Snapping turtles are generally omnivorous. The main and most important part of their diet is aquatic vegetation (65%), so they can be considered primarily herbivorous. The second most important part of their diet is animal material including fish. Snapping turtles are only capable of taking slow nongame fish (small trash fish) and are absolutely no hazard to game and sport fish. They also eat carrion,frogs and other amphibians, invertebrates (mollusks and crustaceans), occasionally water fowl, and very rarely other birds and small mammals.

Habitat: Snapping turtles are highly aquatic and spend most of their lives in the water, except when they crawl out on logs to sun themselves. This behavior (called basking) occurs frequently in northern populations where turtles use it to warm themselves up to increase their metabolic rate and rate of energy assimilation so that they will have enough fat reserves for the winter. They prefer obstructed or covered areas to live in and prefer the bottom of rivers and lakes with soft mud (very important), organic debris, dense vegetation, and water lilies. However, they can readily adapt to a wide variety of habitats and are found practically in any permanent or semi-permanent non-moving or slow-moving body of water (ponds, lakes, marshes, swamps, ditches, puddles, salt marshes), as long as the water depth is great enough to allow them to hibernate below the ice, and cover or camouflage is available.

Breeding: Mating takes place from April to November. In the mating process, the male positions himself on top of the female’s shell by grasping the shell with his claws. He then curves his tail until his vent contacts the female’s vent. Fertilization takes place at this time. After the eggs have developed sufficiently in the female, she excavates a hole, normally in sandy soil, and lays as many as 83 eggs. The eggs take 9 to 18 weeks to hatch depending on the weather. Interestingly, female snapping turtles sometimes store sperm for several years. Sperm storage allows individuals to mate at any time of the year independent of female ovulation, and it also allows females to lay eggs every season without needing to mate.

Mythbusters: N/A