Snapper Turtles – Shy in the Water, Aggressive on Land!

Snapping turtles are one of the commonly available native species, along with painted turtles, map turtles, red eared sliders, mud and musk turtles, and softshell turtles. They have three low keels and an upper jaw that is slightly hooked. They also have muscular limbs and long tails, and a sawtooth back edge on its carapace (top shell). Some turtle keepers think that they would make a good pet, but the truth is that they are only suited for the experienced turtle keeper, and definitely not for the novice.

Snapping turtles, when in water, can be very shy. They are not social creatures. But be very careful ‘dealing’ with them when they are on land. They can be very aggressive. They live up to their name: snapping, while standing on all fours and rocking back and forth. They tend to strike with a remarkable speed and force whenever they sense danger. If you are not cautious, a snapping turtle can even bite off your fingers! Moreover, baby snapping turtles grow into very large adults, weighing as much as 70 pounds, with shell lengths up to 20 inches. They grow fast; small snappers can double in size in 12 months!

If you are seriously considering keeping snapping turtles, ensure that they are housed in a large pond or a huge aquarium. In addition, unlike other turtles that can draw back into their shells, snapping turtles are unable to do this because of their large heads. Like other reptiles, they are also cold-blooded; which means that their internal body temperature varies according to their external surroundings. Because of the algae budding on its carapace, they have greenish-gray or dark green colors. Their tails are long, similar to crocodiles.

The Snapping Turtle is found from southeastern Canada to the southwestern United States, and as far south as Ecuador. Snapping turtles are mainly carnivorous, and prefer to eat live fish, birds, plants, worms, frogs, snails, snakes, small mammals, other turtles, and carrion. They have wide throats, allowing them to eat large pieces of food. Their diet includes plants, such as algae elodea, nymphaeca, lemna, typha, and potamogeton. Interestingly, they are not picky eaters-they have voracious appetites and don’t care whether their food is alive or dead. They eat anything that fits into their mouths! For this reason, you might think that they are easy to keep, but you must remember that they can and will attack, and can not only bite your fingers, but can sever them as well. You must be careful when feeding these turtles. Because of their voracious appetites and ability to eat many things, you must dole out suitable and healthy portions of food, as the snapping turtle can easily become obese, a common problem in turtles.

Snapping turtles have a life span of between 30 to 40 years, which they spend mostly in water. Female snappers go to the land to hatch, then return to water, leaving their eggs. They lay 30 to 40 ping-pong sized eggs, which become hatchlings in 3 to 4 months. Snapping turtles need only a simple habitat. You don’t need to build an elaborate pond for your snapper. Snappers tend to destroy everything, and will uproot plants purchased to decorate their environment.

Unlike desert tortoises, the population of snapping turtles is not in danger of extinction. Let us hope that it will continue to be so. Snapping turtles deserve their place on earth: Let us hope that their numbers remain healthy for future generations to enjoy!

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