Snapping Turtle (Common Snapping Turtle)

Snapping Turtle

Chelydra serpentina
Chelydridae (snapping turtles) in the order Testudines

Large aquatic turtle with a big pointed head, long thick tail, and small plastron (lower shell). Upper shell may be tan, brown or nearly black but is often covered with mud or algae. In young turtles, upper shell has 3 rows of low keels, but these are less apparent in older individuals. Head often covered with numerous small black lines or spots. Underparts yellowish-white. Upper part of the tail has large, pointy scales in a sawtoothed row. Eyes can be seen from above.

Take care if you plan on handling large snapping turtles! With their strong jaws and long necks, the only safe way to carry one of these turtles is to grasp it at the base of the tail and keep it away from your legs.

Upper shell length: 8–14 inches; weight 10–35 pounds.
Habitat and conservation: 
Commonly occurs in farm ponds, marshes, swamps, sloughs, rivers, and reservoirs—anywhere there is permanent water. Prefers bodies of water with a mud bottom, abundant aquatic vegetation, and submerged logs. Females often travel overland during egg-laying season and often are killed by cars. Both sexes travel overland seeking a new home if their pond dries up. Conservation of this species involves regulated hunting: Check the Wildlife Code of Missouri for specifics.
Insects, crayfish, fish, snails, earthworms, amphibians, snakes, small mammals, and birds. However, up to a third of the diet may consist of aquatic vegetation. Carrion may also be consumed.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Common throughout the state. This species was formerly called the "common snapping turtle," but scientists are now in favor of calling it simply "snapping turtle." They didn't want the name "common" to mislead people into thinking this turtle is necessarily abundant, when it is instead only the most typical and widespread member of its family.
Life cycle: 
Courtship and mating can take place between April and November, but mostly in late spring and early summer. June is the usual month for egg-laying, though two clutches may be laid per season. The female digs a nest in deep sand or loose soil and deposits usually 20–30 eggs. These hatch 55–125 days later, depending on environmental conditions. Males become mature in 4–5 years, and females in 4–7. These turtles are most active at night.
Human connections: 
An economically important game animal pursued for its meat, which makes a fine stew and an excellent soup. A fishing permit is required. Studies have shown that these turtles do not harm game fish or waterfowl populations in natural conditions, though they may become a nuisance in artificial ponds.
Ecosystem connections: 
These turtles help to keep the populations of many aquatic animals (and aquatic plants) in check. Meanwhile, studies have shown that up to 84 percent of nests can be destroyed by hungry predators such as skunks, raccoons, and mink.
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