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Species Description

Common Snapping Turtle

Chelydra serpentina

Species Image


Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Family: Chelydridae


The carapace can be tan, black, or dark brown. Adults average from 203 - 360 mm (8 - 14 in) in carapace length and weigh from 4.5 - 16 kg (10 - 35 lbs). The record for carapace length is 494 mm (19.3 in) and for weight is 34 kg (75 lbs). This is a large freshwater turtle with a long tail and neck, a small plastron, and three rows of low carapace keels.

Life Cycle

Mating can occur in any month from April and November. Nesting generally occurs between early May and mid-June. Females come out to lay eggs in either the morning or evening. An open site is selected, and the female digs a bowl-shaped nest cavity in loose sand, loam, or plant debris. An average range of 20 - 40 eggs are laid, and incubation lasts from 75 -95 days. The eggs hatch in August to Octobe, and the young emerge from the nest and head for water where they hide under cover from predators.

Natural History

The Common Snapping Turtle can inhabit almost any body of freshwater; rivers, lakes, marshes, swamps, ponds, and streams are all home to this turtle. Some have even be found in brackish salt marshes. It prefers bodies of water which have a soft mud or sand bottom, aquatic vegetation, and plenty of submerged tree trunks or brush. It will eat almost anything: aquatic plants, algae, arthropods, insects, fish, amphibians,, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Its eggs are preyed upon by Raccoons, skunks, foxes, Coyotes, bears, crows, and Hognose Snakes. Juveniles and hatchlings are eaten by herons, egrets, alligators, and predatory fish. When apporached by humans or other predators this turtle can lunge, sometimes so violently that its body is lifted off the ground, and can bite viciously.


Common Snapping Turtle Region Map The Common Snapping Turtle can be found throughout the state of Georgia. This species ranges from southern Canada south to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Atlantic Ocean to the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. Elevational distribution ranges from sea level to over 2,000 m (6,562 ft).

Conservation Status

The Common Snapping Turtle can be captured in the state of Georgia at any time. This abundant species is trapped for food by people who consider its meat to be a delicacy.

Similar Species

The Alligator Snapping Turtle has a huge head in proportion to its body size, a strongly hooked beak, three rows of high carapace keels, and an extra row of scutes between the marginals and the costals.