While their name might make them sound menacing, snapping turtles are very docile creatures. They won’t attack unless provoked or if they feel vulnerable.
Snapping turtles aren’t usually dangerous, but you should avoid being around them in the water. They won’t attack swimmers, but if they feel threatened by you, they might try to chase you out of the area.
Because snapping turtles feel confident in the water, they don’t usually bother swimmers because they know they can get away quickly. However, if walking on land, they are more susceptible to attacks. Due to this, they might be a little flustered and trying hard to stay alert which could make them a bit aggressive.
How to Identify a Snapping Turtle
It can be a little difficult at first to differentiate a snapping turtle from a regular one, but there are a few ways you can do so. One is by looking at their tail. A snapping turtle will have a much longer one which can reach anywhere from 8-18 inches.
You can also look at their head. Snapping turtles have a gigantic skull that features a keratinous beak. This beak is slightly curved and has a pointed end.
Besides these, a snapping turtle’s shell is also unique. Despite them having a large body, their shell is somewhat small. Because of this, it’s unable to provide them with protection so they don’t hide in it like other turtles.
If you notice a turtle with these characteristics, it’s probably a snapping turtle.
Where are Snapping Turtles Found?
Snapping turtles are native to North America’s East Coast, especially in Georgia and South Carolina. They enjoy living in shallow freshwater areas, such as streams, ponds, and lakes, that are filled with mud and sand. Snapping turtles enjoy burrowing into these substances as a way to protect themselves from predators and to cool off.
Can a Snapping Turtle Bite a Finger Off? How Strong is Their Bite?
While rare, a snapping turtle could potentially bite one’s finger off but this is very uncommon. However, one type of snapping turtle, the alligator snapping turtle, has an impressive jaw strength of over 1,000 pounds – something which could definitely rip a human finger off.
In general, it’s believed that regular snapping turtles have a jaw strength of 226 Newtons of force. While not the most intense compared to other creatures, it can be very painful and could break one’s finger or tear the skin around it.
Has a Snapping Turtle Ever Killed Someone?
There are no records that indicate a snapping turtle has ever killed someone. However, there are numerous reports of them tearing off pieces of skin or breaking bones.
Tips for When Swimming Around Snapping Turtles
- Leave Them Alone – The best way to prevent getting hurt around snapping turtles is to leave them alone. If you notice one nearby, don’t try to swim up closer to it. Instead, move away from the area.
It might be tempting to try to quickly swim over to the snapping turtle and touch their shell, but it’s important to not do this. These quick motions can scare the animal and you could end up getting bit.
- Be Quiet – Loud noises can scare and irritate snapping turtles. If you make them around the turtle, you risk them becoming agitated and trying to bite you. If you notice a snapping turtle close by, be as quiet as you can and move away from them. This will help them to understand that you aren’t a threat.
- Approach Them From the Side – If you happen to get close to the turtle, try to move to their side. This might seem like you’re sneaking up on them, but it actually allows the snapping turtle to get a clearer view of you. It will also help them to quickly find an escape route should they feel trapped.
- Avoid Shallow Areas – For those who plan to splash around in a stream, lake, or pond, stay away from the shallow parts. These are where snapping turtles like to hide. While they won’t usually try to bite you at first, if you continue to irritate them or happen to put your arms or feet near their mouth, you might get injured.
Is it Safe to Pick Up a Snapping Turtle?
It is safe to pick them up, but you need to be cautious when doing so. Lifting them up incorrectly not only causes them to become irritated, but could injure the turtle.
To safely pick up a snapping turtle, you want to make sure you are standing behind them. Then, grab onto the back of their shell with both of your hands. Make sure you have a good grip on them because they will try to squirm around.
Gently lift them slightly off of the ground, but keep them close to it in case you accidentally lose your grip. As you move them, try to keep their face away from any body parts as they will twist their neck around. If your hands or face is close to them as they do this, they will try to bite you. Once you’re done transporting the turtle, gently place them back on the ground.
Interesting Facts About Snapping Turtles
• This turtle’s shell is usually covered in mud and algae. This is normal and accumulates due to the shell’s scales constantly being covered in water.
• The snapping turtle can weigh anywhere from 200-400 pounds.
• It’s an omnivore and enjoys eating spiders, snakes, plants, and insects.
• They are nocturnal and do most of their eating during the night and dawn.
• A snapping turtle can live for up to 100 years.
• A mature snapping turtle doesn’t have many predators, but its eggs and hatchlings need to watch out for foxes, great blue herons, and hawks.
• Male snapping turtles are significantly larger than females.
• A female snapping turtle can lay up to 80 eggs.
• Snapping turtles mature at 15-20 years old.
Snapping turtles are gentle creatures and aren’t usually dangerous. However, if you aggravate one, you risk getting a very nasty injury from their strong jaws.