Chelydra serpentina

Female snapping turtles will leave the water in June to seek nesting areas.

In June, it is common to see female snapping turtles out searching for nesting areas.

Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Family: Chelydridae

The common snapping turtle is Minnesota’s largest species of turtle. It is easily distinguished from all other Minnesota turtles by its size, keeled upper shell (called a carapace), large head, and long, bumpy tail. Its carapace  can reach 8-14 inches (20-36 cm) in length, and adults can weigh up to about 45 pounds (16 kg). Male snapping turtles can reach larger sizes than females.


What they eat
Common snapping turtles have a diverse diet. They consume carrion, aquatic invertebrates, small vertebrates, and aquatic plants. Adults have very few predators, although eggs and young turtles are common prey for other predators. Crows, herons, bitterns, bullfrogs, snakes, and large predatory fish have been known to eat hatchling and immature turtles. On Zoo site, skunks are a major predator of snapping turtle nests.

Where they live
The common snapping turtle is found throughout Minnesota. They spend most of their time in the water, and can be found in habitats such as ponds, lakes, marshes, rivers, and creeks. Common snapping turtles make it through harsh Minnesota winters by burying themselves in the mud or decaying vegetation until spring.

What they do
Like many turtles, common snapping turtles develop slowly. They are sexually mature in about 5-7 years, and live about 30 years. In captivity, this species can live much longer.

Breeding occurs in both spring and fall. Females will lay 25-50 eggs, 60-100% of which may be eaten by other animals. Because this species is so long-lived, only a small number of hatchling turtles need to survive each year in order for a population to remain stable.

The largest snapping turtle recorded in Minnesota weighed 65 pounds (29.5 kg) and its shell length was 19.5 inches (49.5 cm).

How they’re doing
In Minnesota, common snapping turtles can be trapped for their meat by licensed trappers. This species was listed by the state as a Species of Special Concern in 1984, because of concerns about possible over-trapping.

New trapping rules were added in 2004 to help prevent further decline of this species. In August 2013, the snapping turtle was removed from the Minnesota list of Endangered, Threatened, and Special Concern Species. This species has no special federal status.

Are there other species like this on Zoo site?
The common snapping turtle is the only species of snapping turtle found in Minnesota. However the alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii) can be seen in more southern areas of the United States.