Common Snapping Turtles

The Common Snapping Turtle is one of the largest freshwater turtles in North America.  Common Snapping turtles resemble Alligator Snapping Turtles but are smaller and have different features.

Size and Growth

The Common Snappers grow to have a shell length of about 18 to 20 inches.  Most Common Snapping Turtles will reach a maximum weight of about 45 pounds.  Some specimens in captivity have reached near 80 pounds.  Common Snapping Turtles grow somewhat quickly while young and slow down after a few years.  They live to be about 50 years olds.   


The Common Snapping Turtle has a wide variety of prey items.  They will eat almost anything that they can catch.  These turtles are very active and will chase after prey items.  Fish, frogs, snakes, snails, insects, small mammals, crawfish and ducks are a few of the prey a Common Snapping Turtle will eat.  Smaller turtle will eat tadpoles.  Alligator Snapping Turtles ambush their prey while Common Snappers will actively chase and hunt their prey.  Common Snapping Turtle are nocturnal and prefer to hunt during the night.  They will feed during the day if an easy meal comes their way.  The Common Snapping Turtle does not have the worm like appendage that the Alligator Snapping Turtle has. 


The Common Snapping Turtle has a fairly large head that is usually tan to dark brown.  The shell is a dark brown color and has small ridges.  The ridges on a Common Snapping Turtles back are not nearly as pronounced as the ridges on an Alligator Snapping Turtle.  These turtles have a long tail that has ridges on it.  The shell of Common Snapping Turtles usually does not grown moss.  Common Snapping Turtles are far more likely to be found in the water than on land but they can be found crossing roads to get to better feeding grounds.  Common Snapping Turtles will become very aggressive if cornered or handled.  These turtles can cause serious damage when they bite.  You should never handle one of these turtles unless you know what you are doing.  Never pick one of these up by the tail.  You will damage their spine.  The onyl safe way to hold them is to grab the back part of the shell above the legs.  These turtles have sharp claws and they will scratch you if they can.

Common Snapping Turtle in grass

Common Snapping Turtle in grassCredit: Jared DavidsonCredit: Jared Davidson

Common Snapping Turtles as pets

The Common Snapping Turtle does not make a very good pet for the average turtle owner.  They are aggressive and do not like to be held.  The turtles get fairly large and are harder to take care of than most other species of turtles.  The Common Snapping Turtle is very interesting and can be a good pet to an experience and well equipped owner.  I am not aware of any restrictions on owning one of these turtles .  They are not on the endangered species list.  For a begginer or even intermediate turtle owner I would recommend a Red Earred Slider.  Red Earred Sliders are gentle, easy to take care of and can be kept with out reptiles.

Common Snapping Turtle belly

Common Snapping Turtle belly photographCredit: Jared DavidsonCredit: Jared Davidson