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Herps of SC/GA

Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)

Photos by J.D. Willson unless otherwise noted

species photo range map: SC and GArange map: eastern US

Description: The common snapping turtle is a large turtle, ranging in size from 8 to 14 in (20-36 cm) with a record length of 19.3 in (49 cm). Their average weights range from 10 to 35 lbs (4.5 - 16 kg), with a record of 75 lbs (34 kg). Their color varies from tan to dark brown to almost black in some specimens. Common snapping turtles have long tails and necks and rough shells with three rows of carapace keels.

Range and Habitat: Common snapping turtles are found throughout eastern North America including all of South Carolina and Georgia. They inhabit almost any body of freshwater throughout their range. Some have even been found in brackish water.

Habits: Snapping turtles are highly aquatic and are seldom observed basking. At times, however, they may move long distances over land and many die attempting to cross roads. Although generally docile in water, common snapping turtles will strike viciously if captured or cornered out of water. They mate April - November and typically deposit 20 - 40 eggs in concave nests dug by the female. Common snapping turtles are omnivores, taking a wide variety of vertebrate and invertebrate prey, as well as aquatic vegetation.

Conservation Status: The common snapping turtle is not protected and is considered locally abundant in Georgia. In some areas it is harvested for food.

Pertinent Reference:
Ewert, Michael A. 2005. Geographic variation in the pattern of temperature-dependent sex determination in the American snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina). Journal of Zoology 265(1): 81-95.

Account Author: Andy Howington, University of Georgia - revised by J.D. Willson

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Turtles of SC and GA
Reptiles and Amphibians of SC and GA
SREL Herpetology