Eastern Snapping Turtle

Chelydra serpentina serpentina


Average carapace length 20.3-36 cm (8-14 inches) Average adult weight 10-35 lbs[1]. A large, imposing freshwater chelonian with a long, serrated tail, which is often the most distinguishing feature over most of it's range. The plastron is small and cross shaped, often with a dirty yellow coloration but can be bone white, tan or a darker brown color. The carapace has three longitudinal keels which are very well defined in hatchlings and juveniles, but tend to smooth with age. Carapace color ranges from nearly black to a tan color. In younger turtles, there is sometimes a fan like pattern present on the costal scutes.[2]Both the plastron and carapace color are often obscured by algae growth.[2]

Similar Species

The Alligator Snapping Turtle (taxon:Macrochelys temminckii) may be encountered within the range of the Eastern Snapping Turtle, but has an extra row of carapace scutes (supramarginals) between the costals and marginals. Mud (taxon:Kinosternon) and Musk (taxon:Sternotherus) turtles have shorter tails and, as adults, have smooth carapaces.[1][3]


The Eastern Snapping Turtle has the broadest range amongst the subspecies. In Canada from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Southern Quebec and also Southwestern Saskatchewan. In North America, east of the Rocky Mountains into Southern Maine and south into the Florida Panhandle. The Eastern Snapping Turtle has been introduced into several freshwater localities in California.[4]


Almost any freshwater habitat can be a potential home for the Eastern Snapping Turtle. This includes lakes, ponds, reservoirs, swamps, vernal pools, streams, ditches, and slower portions of rivers. This species has been known to utilize brackish wetlands.[2][5]


Eastern Snapping Turtles are primarily carnivorous throughout their lives. They are active foragers as well as "sit and wait" predators. The Eastern Snapping Turtle is known to take a variety of prey, including, but not limited to annelids, insects, crustaceans, gastropods, fish, frogs, snakes, turtles, aquatic mammals and waterfowl.[3] Snapping Turtles are also known to take plant matter on occasion and have been observed doing so in the wild as well as in captivity.[2]


  1. Conant, R and J. T. Collins. 1998. Reptiles and amphibians of eastern and central North America. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston.
  2. VanValen, Mike C., personal observation.
  3. Steyermark, Anthony C., Michael S. Finkler, and Ronald J. Brooks. 2008. Biology of the Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina). The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
  4. http://www.californiaherps.com/turtles/pages/c.s.serpentina.html
  5. White, JF, and AW White. 2007. Amphibians and Reptiles of Delmarva. Tidewater Publishers, Centerville, MD.


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