Thursday, April 7, 2011
Species of the Day: Alligator Snapping Turtle
Scientific Name: Macroclemys temminckii
Adult Size: 15 to 26 inches long; 35 to 150 pounds
Range: Primarily along the Mississippi river in the mid- to southwest United States
Habitat: Inhabits the deep waters of large rivers, canals, lakes, swamps and bayous
The alligator snapping turtle has a grotesque appearance and a terrible attitude. With its huge size, roughened muddy-brown carapace, grossly over-sized head, spiked tail the length of the carapace and hooked, gaping jaws surely make it an intimidating sight. One of the largest species of freshwater turtles in the world, adults weighing over 150 pounds with carapace lengths of over 25 inches are well-documented. The world record holder is a male weighing in at 316 pounds and is 31 1/2 inches long. Despite many large adults being housed communally with other species of turtles in zoo exhibits, Alligator snapping turtles are best kept alone. These turtles are not for everybody and especially not for beginner turtle keepers. Their space requirements, maintenance and appetites make them very expensive and hard to care for.
Alligator snapping turtles need enormous amounts of space to be happy. Hatchlings require no less than a 20 to 50 gallon tank, which will last them about a year as they grow very fast. Outdoor ponds are recommended above all else for adults, with 800 gallon stock tanks being the only alternative. Alligator snapping turtles are ambush predators, and so blend in with their surroundings to keep hidden and feel safe. Logs, driftwood, river rocks, tree stumps and other similar features will help the turtle feel secure in its home. A safe and secure turtle is also a less defensive turtle. Filtration needs to be of the highest caliber, or else costly and difficult 100% water changes are required every week. Alligator snapping turtles will gladly gobble up anything offered. Commercial turtle food, live freshwater minnows, live guppies, live crayfish, cooked chicken, chopped bluegill, bass, or other game fish (which can be fed whole and live to larger turtles), mice chicks, and rats are all fair game. In the wild, they will also munch some vegetable matter, so it is important to also offer things such as water hyacinth, water lettuce, grapes, cherries, bananas, apples and carrots.