|Common snapping turtle|
Photo courtesy of Brad Gratwicke
Snapping turtles are strictly fresh water turtles. You can spot them in lakes, ponds, streams and marshes. They are omnivorous. They eat vegetation, snakes, fish, crayfish, carrion and insects. They can go for days or even weeks without eating.
Most snapping turtles are grey, brown, green or black. They have long tails in comparison to other turtle species and have smaller shells than other turtles. In fact, their shells are so small that they cannot pull their heads and bodies in like other turtles. That leaves more of their bodies exposed.
A fully grown common snapper’s carapace is usually between 10 and 18 inches long. These turtles can weigh between 35 and 60 pounds. An alligator snapper can grow to be up to 200 pounds with a carapace of up to 26 inches. Common snappers can live 30-40 years, sometimes longer in captivity. An alligator snapper can live 20-70 years; they can grow to be even older in captivity as well.
Alligator snappers have the second strongest bite strength of all the creatures on Earth, according to some sources. Others say they have a similar bite strength to humans. Either way, they can take off a finger, so don’t let one bite you.
Alligator snapping turtles have spiky, plated shells and can stay underwater for up to three hours. They also have a worm like protuberance growing out of their mouths that is used as a fishing lure.
Snapping turtles mate from April to November and will lay up to 83 eggs at a time. Females can store sperm for years so they can reproduce even when they don’t have a mate. They lay their eggs and leave them. They do not rear their young or even care for the eggs. The eggs take between nine and eighteen weeks to hatch and their sex is determined by the temperature of their surroundings during the incubation period.
Snapping turtles are known for their aggressive behavior, though they are usually only aggressive on land. When they feel threatened, they will hiss and may even give off an offensive odor. They can also strike very quickly with their jaws, so injuries from snapping turtles are relatively common.
These turtles spend most of their time in the water with the exception of nesting females. If you do see one out of the water just avoid it and be sure to keep your eyes open for others. Do not attempt to pick up these turtles, they have long necks and will bite if provoked. They hibernate in mud burrows during the winter so it is highly unlikely that you will see them at that time.