What Are Some Snapping Turtle Facts?

Snapping turtles are excellent hunters and are commonly at the top of the food chain where they live. They hunt for fish by using pink protrusions on the end of their tongues as lures resembling worms. Two types exist, the common snapping turtle and the alligator snapping turtle. Common snapping turtles can be found in water bodies throughout Canada, the United States and Mexico. Alligator snapping turtles are only indigenous to parts of Florida, Missouri, east Texas, Kansas, Indiana and Kentucky.

In addition to their powerful jaws, snapping turtles have massive claws on their feet that allow them to rip their food into pieces and to climb hills so they can nest. Snapping turtles rarely leave the water, with the exception being females going to lay eggs on land after mating annually during the spring. They’re capable of staying under the water for up to three hours without surfacing.

Alligator snapping turtles are the largest freshwater turtles in North America. These types of snapping turtles have spiked shells; thick, curvy tails; and beak-like jaws. Male alligator snapping turtles grow to weights of about 175 pounds, while females generally weigh about 50 pounds. Common snapping turtles have ridged, rock-like shells. Both the males and females weigh approximately 35 pounds.

Both types of snapping turtles have crimson-colored, worm-shaped sections on their tongues that they stick out to arouse the curiosity of passing fish and frogs. Snapping turtles also eat water birds, water snakes and aquatic plants. When they rest on land, they also eat opossums, raccoons and squirrels.

Snapping turtles mate once a year, between April and November. The pregnant females build nests on land, where they deposit their eggs, and cover them with mud or sand to encourage optimal incubation conditions for the offspring. Once hatched, the young snapping turtles’ instincts lead them to the water, where they remain until adulthood.