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What Does A Snapping Turtle Eat?

If you’ve ever tried to handle a snapping turtle, you may have thought that their diet would largely consist of human hands and fingers. But, though they may snap at you and even draw blood, they won’t consume your appendages. That said, they do eat many other kinds of foods. So, what exactly does a snapping turtle eat? What is its favorite food? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll answer these questions and more.

What Does a Snapping Turtle Eat in the Wild?

What Does a Snapping Turtle Eat in the Wild

Snapping turtles are opportunistic omnivores, which means they will eat almost anything available to them.

There are two types of snappers: common snapping turtles and alligator snapping turtles. Alligator snappers are larger and have a more meat-heavy diet, but both types of snapping turtles eat a combination of meat and plant-based foods.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the foods these turtles will eat:

  • Aquatic invertebrates: Snapping turtles do most of their hunting in the water. They will eat a variety of invertebrates that they find in the water, including snails, leeches, crayfish, worms, shrimp, and water insects.
  • Insects: They also eat some insects which they find out of the water, including beetles, cockroaches, dragonflies, ants, and earthworms. They scrounge up many of these insects by digging in the dirt.
  • Fish: Since snapping turtles get most of their food from the water, fish make up a large portion of their diet. They eat many different kinds of fish depending on what’s available, from tuna to goldfish to eels. 
  • Birds: Snapping turtles sometimes eat birds, especially waterfowl. They will eat geese, swans, ducks, and the young of all of these birds; they will also sometimes eat chicks and chickens.
  • Small mammals: Snapping turtles may occasionally eat small mammals such as mice, rats, rabbits, and squirrels. Larger snapping turtles may even eat larger creatures such as raccoons and beavers.
  • Reptiles and amphibians: Snapping turtles commonly eat other reptiles and amphibians found in or near the water, such as water snakes, salamanders, frogs, and tadpoles. Sometimes they will even eat other turtles.
  • Carrion: Some snapping turtles will eat dead animals such as fish, birds, or frogs. 
  • Eggs: Snapping turtles often eat the eggs of various other animals, including birds, snakes, fish, frogs, and salamanders.
  • Aquatic plants: Snapping turtles will eat a wide variety of plants which they find growing in or near the water. Some of these plants include algae, moss, mermaid weed, grass, water lilies, duckweed, and cattails.
  • Land plants: Sometimes they will eat plants they find on land as well. These can include grass, leafy greens, wild berries, and other fruits and vegetables.

What Human Foods Does a Snapping Turtle Eat?

Snapping turtles make popular pets in part because they are not picky eaters. In addition to all the foods they get naturally in the wild, they will eat a variety of human foods while living in captivity.

Some of these foods include:

  • Meat: You can feed your snapping turtle small bits of raw, unprocessed meat such as chicken, fish, or beef. You can also feed them chicken eggs and egg shells.
  • Fruits: Snapping turtles enjoy a variety of fruits such as berries, grapes, apples, bananas, cherries, and watermelon. If you feed your snapping turtle these foods, make sure they are chopped or shredded in small pieces so the turtle can swallow them.
  • Vegetables: Snapping turtles will also eat many vegetables, including celery, lettuce, tomatoes, corn, and carrots. Again, be sure to chop or shred the veggies finely so the turtle can eat them. 

To learn more about what snapping turtles will eat in captivity, check out this video:

Do not feed your snapping turtle:

  • Processed foods: processed human foods such as bread, chips, cookies, crackers, etc., provide no nutritional value and may even harm the turtle over time.
  • Dairy products: Snapping turtles are unable to digest dairy products of any kind. Avoid giving them milk, yogurt, cheese, sour cream, and all other foods containing dairy.
  • Processed meats: Processed meats such as sausage, hot dogs, and bacon contain a lot of additives and preservatives that may harm a snapping turtle’s health.
  • Salty and sugary foods: Salt and sugar are harmful to a snapping turtle’s health. Avoid giving these foods to your turtle. 

What is a Snapping Turtle’s Favorite Food?

Snapping turtles as a whole don’t have one favorite food. They seem to prefer eating meat-based foods, as these make up about 70 percent of their diet.

That said, there is evidence to suggest that snapping turtles develop a preference for the first thing they eat when they are babies. 

They may also develop different preferences based on what is most available in their particular region.

What Does a Baby Snapping Turtle Eat?

What Does a Baby Snapping Turtle Eat?

Baby snapping turtles are miniature versions of the adults in every way–including the foods they eat.

Baby snapping turtles eat the same kinds of food that adults eat, only on a smaller scale. Whereas an adult snapper may eat an adult rat or rabbit, a baby snapper may eat a mouse or a baby rat.

Baby snapping turtles eat smaller amounts of food on a more consistent basis. If they are kept in captivity, they must be fed small servings every day, whereas adult snappers only need to eat two or three times a week.

As noted above, baby snapping turtles seem to develop a preference for the first meal they eat. They are independent from the time they hatch, which means they are responsible for finding their own food.

As such, many baby snappers become the hunted instead of the hunters. But those that make it to adulthood tend to develop a taste for a wide variety of foods.

Conclusion

Snapping turtles will eat almost anything they can fit in their mouths and swallow. They are opportunistic omnivores, and their diets tend to include about 70 percent meat and 30 percent plant materials–though alligator snapping turtles will eat a higher percentage of meat and are seen as more carnivorous.

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