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Chelydra serpentina

Common Name: Common Snapping Turtle
Chelydra serpentina
Chelydra serpentina

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Family: Chelydridae
Genus: Chelydra
Species: Chelydra serpentina

Conservation Status

Identifying Features

Common snapping turtles have a large head, a long tail, and can grow to be around 8-18 inches in length. Their shells are tan to dark brown colored, often covered in algae, and contain three rows of keels with points on the back. They have a distinct sharp, beak-like jaw.

Habitat & Range

Common snapping turtles are found in shallow freshwater areas with muddy bottoms and can be found across southeastern Canada, eastern United States, and extending all the way south to the Gulf of Mexico.


Common snapping turtles spend most of their time in the water. They are most active during dawn and dusk and hunt invertebrates, fish, birds, mammals, plants, and carrion. To ambush their prey, snapping turtles bury themselves in mud until only their eyes and nostrils are exposed.

In their environment, common snapping turtles occupy the top of the food chain and will rarely feel fear or aggression towards others. Though they are fierce when hunting, when encountered in water by humans or unfamiliar species, they tend to quietly slip away.

Life Cycle

Common snapping turtles can mate from April through November, but will usually lay eggs during the summer. Females often travel to find suitable sandy plots to deposit their eggs in dug-up holes. Incubation time depends on temperature and can range between 9-18 weeks. After hatching, baby snapping turtles will leave the nesting grounds and head straight for the water.

Featured image by James Dake

See Me At Cayuga Nature Center


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