Saturday, June 4, 2011
Species of the Day: Common Snapping Turtle
Scientific Name: Chelydra serpentina
Adult Size: 12 to 15 inches with some individuals being up to 19 inches. Generally no larger that 35 pounds in the wild, but some captive specimens have grown to 90 pounds. Males are generally larger than females.
Range: Natural range covers the entire eastern United States and southern Canada, extending from Nova Scotia and Maine in the northeast, to Florida in the south, and eastern New Mexico and eastern Montana in the west. Introduced into the Rio Grande river in New Mexico, and habitats in California, Oregon and Washington.
Habitat: Generalist. Found in lakes, farm ponds, shallow wetlands, small streams and river systems. Commonly found moving overland in search of new bodies of water.
The Common Snapping turtle is a large freshwater turtle known for its belligerent disposition when out of the water. This species is much smaller and has a much wider natural range than it's cousin, the Alligator Snapping turtle. In some areas they are hunted quite heavily for their meat, a popular ingredient in turtle soup. These turtles have lived for up of 47 years in captivity, with wild specimens only living to be about 30. That being said, snapping turtles do not make good pets. Their powerful, razor-sharp beaks and long, highly flexible necks and mobile heads make them nearly impossible to handle safely, as they can reach right around to the hands of its keeper and deliver a nasty bite. Because these turtles have evolved in such a way that they cannot properly fit inside their shells, they are much more aggressive than other turtles and can even shoot their heads out and snap in the blink of an eye. Also, their claws are very long and sharp and capable of inflicting serious damage.
If you must have one, however, keep in mind that along with their atrocious temperament, their living requirements make them difficult animals to keep. They need huge amounts of space to be happy, such outdoor ponds or large stock tanks. The water should be deep, but shallow enough for the turtle to be able to stretch it's neck up to the surface to breath. The preferred water temperature should be around 75 to 87 degrees F, and these turtles do occasionally bask in the wild and will need a basking area with both a 90 degrees basking spot and full-spectrum UVB/UVA lighting. The habitat must be both extremely sturdy and secure, as Common Snapping turtles are surprisingly good climbers. Common Snapping turtles are considered omnivorous, but mostly prefer animal protein to the aquatic plants that it sometimes consumes in the wild. Along with various leafy greens and lettuces, any cooked lean meat, such as chicken, turkey and fish are all excellent staples. Good supplements include large night crawlers, pinky or adult mice and commercial turtle pellets.