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Rori Paloski

Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)

Snapping Turtle photo.
Photo © A.B. Sheldon
  • Family: Chelydridae (Snapping turtles)
  • Status: Common
  • Size: carapace 8 to 16 inches

range map

Species range

The snapping turtle is Wisconsin's largest and heaviest turtle species. Its carapace can vary from light brown to black in color and it has a saw-toothed back edge. The tail supports a row of jagged dorsal scales and is nearly as long as the carapace. The head has large jaws and a pointed snout with a prominent beak. Its long neck, powerful jaws and aggressive behavior have rightly earned the snapping turtle its name. The often yellowish-colored plastron is greatly reduced, leaving the limbs very exposed from the underside. Snapping turtles live in most aquatic habitats but prefer ponds, lakes and the backwaters of rivers. Both a predator and a scavenger, the snapper feeds on aquatic animals and plants. They consume almost any animal they can catch, although studies show that their reputation as a duckling predator has been greatly exaggerated. They also feed on slow-swimming, small fish or fresh dead fish. Snapping turtles are important top-line predators in aquatic food chains.


Snapping Turtle  Photo

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Last revised: Tuesday, December 22, 2020