eastern snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina serpentina)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHARACTERISTICS: This turtle has a flattened carapace (upper shell)
with knobby keels that smooth out with age. It can grow very large, reach-
ing up to19 inches in length and weighing from 10 to 35 pounds. It has a
large head, a small plastron (lower shell), and a long tail which is saw-

toothed along the upper side. The carapace is brown; the plastron and

bridge are cream to light brown with varying amounts of black on the sur-

face. The skin of the head, neck, and limbs is dark brown or black, and

the large head has a blunt, protruding snout. The carapace is often covered

with algae. Juveniles are similar to adults in morphology and color. The

breeding season is from late April until November. The incubation period

is from 80-90 days, and egg laying occurs usually in June. The hard-shell-

ed, white eggs are spherical in shape, resembling ping-pong balls. The

eggs are laid in a flask-shaped cavity that the females dig in many varie-

ties of soils on dry land.

 

DISTRIBUTION: The snapping turtle is found statewide, including on
some barrier islands. It inhabits a wide variety of aquatic habitats, includ-
ing ponds, lakes, streams, rivers, swamps, and freshwater and brackish
marshes. Areas providing cover in the form of stumps, muskrat lodges and
burrows, overhanging ledges, and /or soft, deep, organic substrate have the
largest populations. The activity season extends from late March through
October, but snapping turtles can be found in water in any month of the
year.

 

FOODS: This turtle prefers dead, but not rotting, fish. It will also eat cray-
fish, toads, frogs, fish, aquatic insects, terrestrial insects, muskrats, aquatic
plants, and algae. Adults and juveniles have been observed gulping algae
and duckweed on the water's surface. Adult snappers have few predators;
humans are the primary ones.

 

 

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