Prairie Ridge Ecostation

Common Snapping Turtle

Chelydra serpentina

Recently we were treated to a sighting of a female Common Snapping Turtle, Chelydra serpentina.  The turtle was found high up on the ridge, quite a distance from its normal habitat of deep water.  Mid-summer often brings the females of this species out of the security of the water to find a dry place to lay their eggs.  Like most other turtles, the snapping turtle digs a hole for her eggs.  She then deposits them, covers them, and leaves them to incubate on their own.  If the nest remains undisturbed by predators, the hatchlings will dig themselves out of the nest after 9-12 weeks (or occasionally not until the following spring).

A common snapping turtle        A common snapping turtle        A common snapping turtle

Snapping turtles are ancient reptiles that have survived for more than five million years. They are powerful swimmers, and spend most of their lives underwater waiting for prey to ambush.  When on land, their slow walk and small bottom shells, or plastrons, make them vulnerable to predation.  Be warned, however, that the snapping turtle compensates for these terrestrial shortcomings by readily defending itself against anything that harasses it.

As you walk or drive near ponds, lakes, and rivers, be on the lookout for these ancient turtles as they search for nesting sites.