What Happens If A Snapping Turtle Bites You?

Snapping turtles are known for their painful bite; but did you know this bite can inflict serious injuries as well? What happens if a snapping turtle bites you? How should you treat the bite if you get one? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions and more!

What Happens if a Snapping Turtle Bites You?

what happens if a snapping turtle bites you

Snapping turtles are not known for being aggressive–they are generally very docile creatures. But, if they feel threatened, they may bite you in an effort to defend themselves.

They may also bite if they are hungry and mistake your hand for food.

Snapping turtle bites can be incredibly painful. Sometimes they break the skin, while other times they only leave painful bruises.

If a snapping turtle bite breaks the skin, it can cause excessive bleeding–especially if it penetrates a blood vessel. You may notice blood spurting from the wound or flowing in a steady stream.

Alternatively, the wounds left by a snapping turtle’s beak may penetrate so deeply that they don’t bleed much. These deep puncture wounds are at high risk of infection and may lead to complications if they are not promptly treated.

Any bite that breaks the skin may become infected, even if it doesn’t appear deep or produce a lot of blood. Snapping turtles carry salmonella and other bacteria in their mouths, and this bacteria can pass into an open wound when the turtle bites.

Can a Snapping Turtle Bite Your Fingers Off?

For being such docile animals, snapping turtles have an impressive bite force of up to 226 newtons. Alligator snapping turtles have a slightly lower bite force, but their jaws are larger and their beaks are sharper than those of common snappers, so they can still do a lot of damage.

But can these turtles produce enough force to bite off your fingers?

Fingers and toes are the most common body parts that snappers bite. It is possible for them to bite off these appendages, and there have been some documented cases of this happening.

There was even a report once of a snapping turtle biting off a person’s nose.

Though such incidents can happen, they rarely do. Even when snapping turtles do bite, they rarely bite hard enough to actually amputate any body parts.

If you stay away from snapping turtles’ heads, they will not be able to bite you even if they try. And, if you leave them alone and give them plenty of space, they will leave you alone as well.

Again, snapping turtles are not naturally aggressive. They only attack if they feel threatened or if they mistake you for food. 

Can a Snapping Turtle Break Your Bones?

If a snapping turtle bites hard enough to amputate a finger, then chances are it will probably break at least one of the finger bones in the process. The same is true of toes.

Snapping turtles frequently break the bones of the small animals they eat. But these bones are generally much lighter and less dense than most human bones.

So yes, a snapping turtle can technically break small bones in your fingers or toes, but they likely won’t be able to break any of the larger bones in your body.

If a snapping turtle were to bite a small child or an elderly person with frail bones, it might be able to break hand or forearm bones. Again though, most bones even in these weaker humans will be too strong for a snapping turtle to break. 

Regardless of whether or not these turtles could break your bones, you should never underestimate them. Check out this video to get an idea of just how powerful a snapping turtle’s bite can be:

What Does a Snapping Turtle Bite Look Like?

Snapping turtle bites may look vastly different from each other depending on how severe they are. 

If the bite doesn’t break the skin, then it will probably look like a small pink mark at first. This pink mark may give way to a slightly larger bruise over the next few days.

If the bite does break the skin, it will probably look like two small puncture wounds, one on the topside and one on the underside of the affected body part–for example, if the turtle bites the arm, one of the wounds will be on top of the arm while the other will be on the bottom. These puncture wounds are caused by the turtle’s sharp beak.

The turtle may bite repeatedly, causing multiple puncture wounds.

If you are bitten by a snapping turtle, your first instinct may be to pull away or try to knock the turtle away from you. This can cause more serious tearing of the skin, as the turtle will likely bite down harder the more you try to fight it.

These wounds may have a more jagged appearance and may be quite deep. They will most likely bleed a lot.

If at all possible, resist the urge to pull away, as doing so will cause the most serious injuries. Instead, try to remain calm and wait until the turtle releases its hold on its own.

What to Do if You Get Bitten By a Snapping Turtle?

What to Do if You Get Bitten By a Snapping Turtle?

As soon as the turtle releases its hold on you, get away from it if possible. Then examine your injuries.

  • If the skin is not broken, wash the area with soap and water and apply an ice pack to help with the pain and reduce the potential for swelling. Repeat this process over the next few days as needed.

If you continue to experience excruciating pain at the bite site for several days, or if swelling persists, you may have a fractured bone or internal tissue damage. Schedule a visit to your doctor to ask about x-rays and treatment options.

  • If the skin is broken and bleeding, wash the area with soap and running water. If the bleeding is bad and continues after washing, apply direct pressure using a gauze pad until the bleeding subsides.

Apply an antibiotic ointment to the wound, then cover it with an appropriately sized bandage or gauze pad. Get to a doctor’s office for more thorough treatment–it may be necessary to get a tetanus shot.

  • If the wound is bleeding profusely, spurting blood, or is causing other symptoms such as dizziness and headaches, seek medical attention immediately.
  • If the wound is on the face, abdomen, throat, or chest, seek medical attention immediately. A bite in these locations can lead to serious internal injuries that will require prompt evaluation and treatment. 


Snapping turtles only bite to protect themselves or because they mistake your hand for food; but if you do get bitten by a snapper, you may experience serious injuries. If you have been bitten, follow the steps in this guide to care for the wound and get appropriate medical treatment.

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