Snapping Turtle



*During the early 2000’s, Linda Adams, a former resident of TGO, wrote a series of articles for the TGO Nature Center titled “a Page From Nature”.  This article was a part of that series and was published during the 2002-2003 season.  The original article did not include any photographs so I added a photo so you can identify the Snapping Turtle.  Enjoy!

The photo below was taken by Sandy Juba of a Snapping Turtle.  Click on the photo and zoom in to look at the “barbels” or knobs on the turtles neck.  This is one way to distinguish a Florida Snapping Turtle from a Common Snapping Turtle.


TGO Nature Center, Nature, Reptiles, Turtle, Snapping Turtle, Photo Album

Photo Courtesy of Sandy Juba


The Snapping Turtle, or “snapper” is well named, for it will attack anything that comes within range of its powerful jaws. Powerfully built, the snapper has strong claws and a hooked beak so sharp it can bite through a man’s hand. Snapping turtles become extremely aggressive on land and attack is their best method of defense. When threatened, snappers raise their bodies and lunge fiercely at the intruder. Their necks are quite long and they can bite with lightening speed. When handling one, pick it up by its tail and keep the plastron (belly side or shell) toward your body.

The Florida Snapping Turtle can be recognized by the three saw-toothed ridges running lengthwise down the top of its tail. The shell is small and does not cover its head, limbs, and tail. The head is covered with thick, horny sides, and cannot be retracted into the shell. They prey on almost anything they can catch and overpower — fish, frogs, salamanders, smaller turtles, and baby alligators.

Mating usually takes place in the water. In early summer, 25-50 eggs are laid and covered in a hole dug on land. Hatching usually takes 2-3 months; but eggs laid late in the summer may not hatch until the next spring. After hatching, baby snappers make their way down to the water where they will spend their first few years. They grow quickly, reaching 6 inches in shell length the first year, up to 16 inches at maturity. Overall length may reach up to 32 inches and 50 pounds. Males are fully-grown and ready to breed between 3-5 years. Females mature later. Lifespan may reach up to 60 years.

The Alligator Snapping Turtle is one of the largest freshwater turtles in the world. It is found only in rivers and large streams. Its very large head and 3 prominent knobby ridges along its back can distinguish it. Although an Alligator Snapper can seriously wound a human, this species is not nearly as quick, aggressive, or ill tempered as the Florida Snapping Turtle. Still, amateurs should not try to handle large specimens of Alligator Snappers.

The Alligator Snapper has a unique manner of feeding. During the daytime, when there is sufficient light, it will open its mouth and wiggle a reddish worm-like growth in its tongue as a lure to attract small fish. When a fish comes to investigate, the turtle suddenly snaps it up. As the turtle grown older, it relies less on its tongue lure. At night, they feed by foraging on vegetation, snails, mussels, and whatever occasional bits of animal flesh they can find.

Snappers were once used to find dead bodies in lakes. Tethered to a rope, the snapper was released into the water. When the reptile had stopped moving the tracker knew it must have found the body and begun to feed.

(Information Source: Florida’s Fabulous Reptiles and Amphibians)

(Column Prepared By: Linda Adams)


To see more photos of Snapping Turtles, click on this Snapping Turtles Photo Album link.



TGO Nature Center – “Living in Harmony with Nature

Contact Us

To reserve the meeting room, contact:

Josiah Monk at Recreation Services for reservations on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings and Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.

Loretta Anne’ for all other times.