Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)

With powerful jaws and a fearless attitude, American snapping turtles tend to feed on almost anything that
crosses their path. Instead of teeth, they are equipped with a bony ridge that runs the length of their mouth. This sharp ridge accompanied by immense crushing pressure allows these animals to go through flesh and bone with ease. Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo exhibits snapping turtles in the Farmyard Bunnell's pond exhibit.


American snapping turtles are among the largest of living freshwater turtles. Wild males tend to range from 30-45 lbs., however captive specimens have been recorded exceeding 75 lbs. The carapace (top shell) size tends to range from 8” to 24” inches, with a plastron (bottom shell) size barely spanning the underbelly. To compensate for the incomplete shell coverage, snapping turtles tend to “stand and fight” as opposed to hiding from oncoming danger. Generally their coloration varies from a dark brown to an algae covered gray. Unlike other brightly colored North American turtles such as the eastern box and painted sliders, snapping turtles use their muted carapace color to aid them in hunting by providing sufficient camouflage. Because of their size and strength, snappers tend to be opportunistic feeders with a highly varied diet.


Freshwater, soft, mud-bottomed ponds and lakes with dense vegetation, occasionally entering brackish waters.


Southern Canada to Florida, west through Texas.


Insects, amphibians, snakes, leeches, aquatic plants, snails, small mammals, birds, and carrion (dead animals).

Life Span: 

Approximately 30 years in the wild, 40-50 years in captivity.

Family Life: 

After breeding season, which lasts from April to November, females may deposit as many as 83 eggs in their nests. Nest sites also tend to be some distance from water, occasionally in high human traffic areas such as back yards, railroad tracks and roadways.