Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)

Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) 

The Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) is a reptile of order Testudines, Snapping Turtle Family (Chelydridae), genus Chelydra and species serpentina. It grows to 20 inches (50cm) long but is usually about half that size. The carapace (shell) is tan to dark brown but may appear gray or blacker if the carapace is contaminated with soil or algae. The top of the carapace has three rows of keels (raised patches) and twelve plates. The keels to the rear are serrated as seen in the photograph above. The lower part of the shell or belly, called the plastron, is yellow to tan. The tail is about the same length as the body and has serrated keels that are larger closer to the body. The head and limbs are usually extended from the carapace and are colored like the carapace. This turtle is too large to withdraw completely into its shell. The neck has protruding knobs called "tubercles." The beak-like jaw is very powerful. Its bite can easily amputate a finger. These animals should not be picked up because its long neck can reach around to bite the handler even if it is handled by the rear of the carapace. Picking up a snapper by its tail can hurt the animal. They do not make good pets and it is illegal in Maine to adopt, as a pet, any wild animal.

The family and genus names come from the Greek for "amphibious serpent." The species name comes from the Latin for "serpent" because of its ability to bite anything touching its carapace.

These turtles mate from April to November and produce as many as 85 eggs in June. The eggs are deposited in sandy soil and covered. The turtle abandons the eggs once they are laid and covered. The incubation period is nine to 18 weeks. The sex of the hatchlings depends upon the temperature at incubation. Warm temperatures (23 to 28 degrees Centigrade, 74 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit) favor the production of males.

Their diet consists of  vegetation, invertebrates, fish, birds, small animals and carrion. This turtle is common on Mount Desert Island.

The Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) will become very vicious when handled or stepped upon. Generally, it will avoid humans and other large animals in the water as well as on land. It can move remarkably fast in water and on land. They are frequent visitors to French Hill Pond. AVOID CONTACT WITH THIS ANIMAL.

These turtles can be an ingredient in a tasty soup.


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