Snapping Turtle: Key Facts

Did you know that some types of snapping turtles can live for up to 100 years? How about that they are unable to completely retract into their shells? Keep reading to learn more about these and other snapping turtle key facts.

Quick Facts About Snapping Turtles

Scientific Name:Chelydridae
Type of Organism:Reptile: Turtle
Number of Species:2
Physical Description:Medium to large semi aquatic freshwater turtles. Common snappers have smooth, rounded shells dark green to brown in color, often covered with moss. Alligator snappers have ridged shells similar to alligator skins, typically dark brown in color. Both types of snapping turtles have long necks, claws, and tails, as well as sharp beaks.
Distribution:Found throughout the eastern half of North America, from Florida to southern Canada.
Habitat:Rivers, ponds, and wetlands; alligator snappers are limited to bodies of water that flow into the Gulf of Mexico.
Size:Common snapping turtle:
– 10 to 20 inches long
– 9 to 35 pounds
Alligator snapping turtle:
– 13 to 31 inches long
– 19 to 175 pounds
Diet:Opportunistic omnivores; food choices include:
– Fish
– Aquatic invertebrates
– Insects
– Small reptiles and amphibians
– Small mammals
– Birds and bird eggs
– Aquatic plants
– Fruits and vegetables
Lifespan:– Common snapping turtles: 30 to 40 years
– Alligator snapping turtles: 50 to 100 years
Endangered?Alligator snapping turtles are under consideration for Endangered Species Act

What are Snapping Turtles?

Snapping turtles can refer to as many as 5 species of turtle found in North and South America. The two species found in the eastern half of the United States are the common snapper and the alligator snapper.

Both species are similar in appearance, though alligator snappers typically grow much larger and have ridged, alligator-like shells. Both species live near bodies of water and spend much of their time searching for food in ponds, lakes, and streams.

Snapping turtles are too large to completely retract inside their shells in the presence of danger; instead, they fight back, using their powerful jaws and sharp beaks to attack predators and other potential threats. They have been known to bite off human fingers, though they won’t attack unless they mistake your hand for food or believe they are in danger.

Snapping turtles lay 20 to 40 eggs each year, most of which do not survive to adulthood. Female snappers will journey up to three miles from their home in search of a suitable nesting site.

To find out more about the differences between the two types of snappers found in the U.S., check out the following video:

What are Snapping Turtles’ Natural Predators?

Adult snapping turtles have few predators in their natural habitats due to their large size and formidable bite. Young snappers, on the other hand, face many threats from a variety of predatory animals.

Some of the animals that prey on baby snapping turtles include:

  • Large fish
  • Other turtles, including adult snappers
  • Water snakes
  • Bullfrogs
  • Crows
  • Herons
  • Skunks
  • Raccoons
  • Foxes
  • Dogs

Sometimes humans hunt and kill snapping turtles of all ages for their meat. That said, their tendency to bite often makes people think twice before messing around with them.


Snapping turtles are found throughout the southern and eastern United States and are known for their painful bite. They are semi aquatic turtles that live in and near bodies of freshwater such as rivers, streams, marshes, ponds, and lakes.

Read also about other forest reptiles – here are our guides about wood turtles, tuataras, alligators.

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