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Common Snapping Turtle

Scientific Name Chelydra serpentina

Native To Southeastern Canada

Habitat Freshwater rivers, lakes and ponds

Diet Omnivore: aquatic vegetation, insects, crustaceans, mice and small lizards

Size and Age Average length 20-37 cm (8-15 in); weight 4.5-16 kg (10-35 lbs); average lifespan of 60-100 years

Natural History

The common snapping turtle is often found lying at the bottom of a shallow body of water, immersed in mud. Despite being capable swimmers, they tend to move by walking along the bottom of a pond. Common snapping turtles are omnivorous reptiles with an extremely varied diet. Juveniles actively forage for food, while adults tend to sit and wait to ambush prey that swim past. Snapping turtles are known for the strength of their bite. This feature assists with the tearing and chewing of prey.

Least Concern

Conservation Status

Common snapping turtle habitats are being destroyed by urban development. During their nesting season they have been known to wander to find the perfect place to nest. More often than not, these reptiles wander across streets and get run-over by traffic. Although a turtles shell is strong, it is not nearly strong enough to withstand being run over by a car.


National park protection is a contributing factor to easing the stress on common snapping turtle habitats. Recycling and other forms of environmental cleanup helps in several ways as well, making a positive impact on all wild animals.

Interesting Facts

  • Snapping turtles are ectothermic, meaning they cannot regulate their own body temperature.
  • A turtle cannot come out of its shell, because its spine and ribs are fused to it.
  • A snapping turtle’s “snap” or “bite” is strong enough to bite through a broom stick!
  • The common snapping turtle is Canada’s largest freshwater turtle.
  • The gender of baby turtles can be determined by the temperature their eggs are incubated at. Eggs kept at a temperature of 23-28°C (73-82° F) hatch male turtles; eggs incubated at other temperatures hatch into females.