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threatened and/or endangered

Snapping Turtle Chelydra serpentina


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Snapping Turtle, Eastern subspecies
credit: Moondigger

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Family: Chelydridae, Snapping Turtles view all from this family

Description Huge head, powerful jaw. Tan-brown carapace with 3 rows of keels, serrated at the back. Yellow/tan plastron with cross shaped outline. Neck has tubercles.

Dimensions 20-47cm. (8-18 1/2")

Warning Snappers have massive heads with powerful, hooked jaws. They strike viciously when lifted from water or teased and can inflict a serious bite.

Subspecies Eastern Snapping Turtle - Tubercles on neck blunt. Same range. Not in Florida.
Florida Snapping Turtle - Tubercles on neck pointed. Florida peninsula.

Breeding April-November, peaks in June. 25-50 eggs laid in a flask shaped cavity. Hatch after 9-18 weeks, sometimes hatchlings stay in nest over winter. In difficult breeding conditions females can store sperm for a few years.

Habitat Freshwater, containing vegetation, lakes, ponds and streams.

Range Se. Canada, southwest to the Rocky Mountains as far east as Nova Scotia and Florida.

Discussion Hunted for its meat which is seen as a delicacy. Aquatic, lives in shallow water hidden under mud. Hides under an overhanging mudbank or vegetation in winter. Plants, carrion, fish and birds contribute to its diet. Able swimmer, captured individuals placed up to two miles from home have returned within hours.