Common Snapping Turtle
Chelydra serpentina


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photo by Jeff Humphries                          this photo and egg-laying photo by Jeff Davis

Species DescriptionThe looks of this turtle perfectly fit its attitude.  They can be over 17 inches (43.2 cm) long and weigh over 40 pounds (18.1 kg).  Snappers have a huge head, a serrated carapace, and a long, saw-toothed tail.  The plastron is cross-shaped and much smaller than that of most other turtles.  Thus, the fleshy underparts are left exposed (maybe that's why they're so angry all the time?!).  The eyes of snapping turtles are surprisingly beautiful.  If you can get close enough, check them out.

HabitatSnappers are found in just about every type of aquatic habitat.  They prefer rivers, streams, or ponds with soft, muddy bottoms.  Usually, only the eyes and nostrils are visible above the water, as snappers oftentimes bury themselves completely in the mud.

Breeding ActivityThese turtles mate anytime from April through October and the female may remain fertile from one insemination for up to 3 years.  Nesting occurs around June in West Virginia.  The female excavates a nest about 5 to 7 inches deep and deposits up to 30 white, golfball-sized eggs.  Incubation time depends on the incubation temperature and sometimes the young overwinter in the nest and emerge the following spring.  The eggs are often preyed upon by skunks, raccoons, crows, and foxes.

RangeSnappers are very common in streams, rivers, ponds, swamps, and impoundments in West Virginia.

StatusNot listed.