The Chelydra serpentina is an inhabitant of shallow freshwater. This turtle species is now getting popular across the globe and to date, the baby snapping turtle is the most sought after turtle species by pet fish lovers and aquarium enthusiasts throughout the world.
Snapping turtles are native to the Rocky Mountains of Southwestern Canada, the Southeastern part, and Nova Scotia. They are spreading in some Eastern part of the USA stretching up to Central and South America.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Class: Reptilia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Order: Testudines
- (Sub-order): Cryptodira
- Genus: Chelydra
- Family: Chelydridae
- Species: C. serpentina
- Binomial name: Chelydra serpentina (Linnaeus, 1758)
- Synonyms: Testudo serpentine (Linnaeus, 1758), Chelydra serpentina (Schweigger, 1812)
Habitat and Ecosystem
The common snapping turtles are pervasive in freshwater habitats like lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, swamps, marshes and estuaries.
Although they are slow-movers, they are wanderers traveling over the land, sometimes burying themselves for a long time, hibernating in this process.
Adult snapping turtles prefer to live in brackish waters and salt-marsh habitats. In the nesting season of May to June, the females will cross the roads and sometimes get killed on the highways.
Features and Description
The Shell (Carapace and Plastron)
The animal’s carapace is darker, depending on where it traveled. Sometimes it’s brownish or greenish and textured for baby snapping turtle.
Its length can measure up to 18 inches, and the entire turtle’s weight can reach 10-35 lbs when it matures.
You may notice that the snapping turtle's shell is smoother for the older ones, with its rear edge serrated and obscure as they age.
The plastron is the protective layer of the chest, which reduces in size when turtles become aggressive.
The bottom shell does not cover its entire flesh, and it covers only the structural parts.
The Head and Tail
The Chelydra serpentina has a large head and a long neck with a sharp and hooked jaw. With this hard upper jaw, turtles tear their food since they have no teeth. The neck is an essential part of its body; it can extend in a split second.
The snapping turtle has a long and slim tail with bony plates that can measure as long as the carapace or even longer.
The adult snapping turtle has a muscular build and is rugged with ridges on its upper shell. A baby snapping turtle has more pronounced ridges.
The average lifespan of a snapping turtle can reach 30 years, but if it lives in its natural habitat, it can reach until 47 years old.
Snapping turtles live longer if given a good living condition even in captivity. Records show that Ontario, Canada has proof that these turtles can live beyond 100 years old.
The Chelydra serpentina basks by floating on the water surface, exposing only their carapaces. In springtime, they relax on the fallen tree branches and logs.
Common snapping turtles lie on a muddy bottom of shallow waters. They stretch their long necks out of the water surface to have a taste of air. Their nostrils are on the tip of their snouts functioning effectively as snorkels.
Turtles are slow and peaceful. They move in a quiet passion. Like other animals, they become aggressive when threatened, and that’s only for their defense.
Another known fact is that these amphibians take 12-20 years before they mature. Therefore, they have delayed sexual maturity, and the chance to reproduce is not always successful.
In their ecological state, the snapping turtles are dominant in the food chain, so they have no fear. They have an aggressive disposition.
If a Chelydra serpentina encounters humans underwater, it will be curious and will survey the person by bumping its nose on the person’s leg. In most cases, it will just slip away quietly or seek shelter under the nearby grass or mud.
Why do we find some snapping turtles around?
Turtles get out of the water and travel a distance in search for their mates when it’s breeding time. As earlier mentioned, during the months of spring to summer, usually May and June, they wander through lands and roads. When it’s nesting season, they are trying to find a haven for their eggs.
If you see a baby snapping turtle in your backyard, it is making its way for survival, since its mother does not have a caring instinct. They could appear in your muddy yard after heavy rain or flood because it feels like their natural habitat.
Nesting and Hatching
When the animal found a dry and sandy ground, it will dig 2-3 holes, 8 inches deep, or as deep as what the mother’s flippers can dig. In these holes, the mother will lay 20-40 snapping turtle eggs.
The mother turtle will cover up the holes with sand and will go back to the water. By then, its responsibility is over. Reports could not confirm if they have motherly instincts.
Hatching period takes 2-3 months depending on environmental factors, especially the temperature. Each snapping turtle shell turns hard and leathery.
A tiny baby snapping turtle will emerge from its eggshell by August or until October. Each will soon find its way to the water, which is a suitable ecosystem where it can mature. Sadly, they had to go through this phase on their own to live.
Incubation: What are the chances that snapping turtle eggs will hatch?
It might surprise you if you see snapping turtle eggs in your yard one day. Even if you ignore them, predators might see them when hunting food. Raccoons, meerkats, skunks, fox, and hedgehogs are common culprits.
Studies prove that these animals have a high mortality of embryos. More so, its hatchlings have a low survival rate. If lucky enough, each baby snapping turtle will hatch in two to three months. Eventually, they will move and make their way to the water.
Diet: What is the recommended snapping turtle food?
Snapping turtles are animals that feed on plants and animals. They are omnivores. They stay underwater waiting for bits and pieces of turtle food to drop or float by.
Turtles are aquatic scavengers they can eat even dead fish, dead stock, and garbage. They can eat anything they can swallow, including your fingers.
They are active hunters. They prey on small reptiles and amphibians like snakes, frogs, and even smaller turtles. In its natural habitat, they can also eat bugs, snails, pollywogs, and newts.
Snapping turtles prefer fish and invertebrates. They also like small mammals like birds, goslings, and ducklings. They love feeding on aquatic plants, bits, and leftover fruits and vegetables.
The only point to remember about the ordinary baby snapping turtle is the size of the food morsels you feed them.
New pet lovers might not have a vast knowledge regarding the right feeding of turtles. They might serve the same food all the time.
Turtles in captivity get overweight because of this, and it is not healthy for them. We wouldn't recommend aquarium fish food though those won’t poison them, anyway.
There are lots of turtle food in the pet shop stores, but if they are no longer tasty for them, try feeding them with live food if you have excess food like grilled chicken, strawberries, baked potatoes, or lettuce. Note that they are leftover food lovers.
You may feed Chelydra serpentina with mealworms, night crawlers, live crickets, and other crawling insects. Just remember that preys should be smaller than the predator.
For more in-depth information, you can always shop online. There are lots of reliable sites offering snapping turtle food suitable for the age of your pet turtles.
Care: How to take care of a baby snapping turtle?
A 10-gallon tank is enough for a baby snapping turtle, but you need extra space when it grows an inch. It blurs the water because of the amount of waste it generates. Remember that they are scavengers.
You can't train a Chelydra serpentina even if you start at a young stage though there are some turtle species that you can train. Snapping turtles behave so well under water unless threatened. It is then that they hiss.
If you plan to buy two or more, be sure to place them in separate pools because they bite each other as they grow. Before adopting a baby snapping turtle, check first the animal laws in your country.
Now you know about the proper handling and maintenance of these amphibians, are you ready for them? You don’t just buy a tiny snapping turtle from a pet shop and leave it in the muddy area of your backyard.
A baby snapping turtle can be so irresistible for a pet. However, it can be irritable and destructive during its growing stage as it seeks an environment resembling its natural habitat.
Raising Chelydra serpentina is a commitment and not just a hobby. You may be too enthusiastic now because it is still a cute, manageable miniature.
It may become a burden to you during its growth stage, especially if you fall short of the knowledge in raising it. Seek the advice of an aquarist. Your local pet shop stores can help you in successfully raising a baby snapping turtle.