Are Snapping Turtles Dangerous? [Facts You Must Know]

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Snapping turtles are one of the largest species of turtles that are common in the USA. If you live near freshwater sources, you may have seen snapping turtles roaming in your backyard once in a while. So, is It alright to allow snapping turtles on your property? Are snapping turtles dangerous? 

Snapping turtles are often misunderstood for their appearance and size. They are not too aggressive. They may bite people or animals only when they are provoked. But a wild snapping turtle on your property can be dangerous for children or pets. 

Let’s have a further discussion about how aggressive snapping turtles actually are and how to handle them. 

Do Snapping Turtles Bite People?

You probably have heard about how hard snapping turtles bite people. You may also have heard snapping turtles biting off fingers of people. In fact, they are called snapping turtles for their powerful snaps. 

Snapping turtles can indeed bite people and other animals. They do not have any teeth, but they have a powerful beak. Common snapping turtles have longer and more flexible necks than alligator snapping turtles. They can snap quite fast and hurt their prey or enemies. Alligator snapping turtles have shorter necks but can bite with the same force. 

However, there are rare incidents of people getting bitten by snapping turtles. Snapping turtles try to avoid conflict and flee dangerous situations. They only bite when they are provoked and find themselves in danger. 

So, it is better not to get too close to a snapping turtle and bother them. If you have to pick up a snapping turtle to move it to safety, you should know how to hold one properly. You will learn it later in the article. 

How Aggressive Are Snapping Turtles?

Snapping turtles are not friendly turtles. They prefer to stay alone. On top of that, they look menacing with their long sharp claws. Overall, snapping turtles look angry and aggressive. But snapping turtles are not typically aggressive. They are not always ready to bite or snap at anyone they see. 

Besides, not all snapping turtles have the same tamper. While some snapping turtles can be non-aggressive, others can be aggressive.

Their behavior can change depending on their situation. They are docile and calm in the water as they feel safer there. People are rarely bitten by snapping turtles in the water. Snapping turtles can move quite fast in the water. So, they swim away from people. 

On the other hand, snapping turtles are slow on land. Moreover, they have small shells. They cannot get into their shell when they feel threatened. Hence, they are much more alert and aggressive on the ground out of insecurity. To protect themselves, they do not hesitate to use their powerful beaks. 

They do not like to be touched or handled by people. Thus, they try to bite and wriggle to get away from people and animals. Not just snapping turtles, any animal can do the same to stay alive. So, there is not any point in calling snapping turtles particularly aggressive. 

Will Snapping Turtles Chase You?

People often wonder if snapping turtles may chase them. Snapping turtles do not chase people in the water or on the ground. However, as mentioned above, they might bite you if you get close and irritate them. 

Snapping turtles do not like anyone getting too close to them. You may find it raising its neck and upper shell when it gets ready to bite or snap. That is your cue to back away from a snapping turtle. 

Snapping turtles are just as scared of people as people are of them. So it does not chase people and bite them. Instead, they try to escape. 

Snapping turtles are faster in the water, but they do not chase swimmers even there. Therefore, swimmers can safely swim in a lake or pond with snapping turtles

Are Snapping Turtles Dangerous for Dogs?

Snapping turtles may not be too dangerous for humans, but what about pets? Humans can understand the danger of provoking snapping turtles. But dogs and cats are curious about their surroundings. They might approach a snapping turtle out of curiosity. 

A dog has the habit of sniffing anything. It may even try to bite the snapping turtle. Being insecure and scared, the snapping turtle will snap at the dog.   

Adult snapping turtles can bite off limbs of a puppy or small size dog. Therefore, you must not allow your pet to get close to a snapping turtle. If you have pets, you should remove a wild snapping turtle from your property as soon as possible. 

Does a Snapping Turtle Bite Hurt?

Snapping turtles earned their name for valid reasons. They are capable of biting off a finger or toe! Even baby snapping turtles can bite pretty hard. 

The average bite force of adult common snapping turtles is 210 Newtons. Alligator snapping turtles bite with slightly less for. They have a bite force of about 160 Newtons. Compared to human bite force (1,100 Newtons), snapping turtle bite may seem less dangerous, but it is not. 

The powerful jaws and sharp beaks of snapping turtles make their bites dangerous and painful. If the snapping turtles want, they can tear off your flesh with their bite. 

What to Do When A Snapping Turtle Bites?

Sometimes the rarest incidents can happen. You may encounter a snapping turtle on the road or in your backyard. You may also get bitten by your pet snapping turtle. So, how can you survive a snapping turtle bite?

Snapping turtles may snap at your flesh and let go right away. But sometimes, they can bite hard on your flesh and not let go right away. In that case, you have to remain calm. Do not try to pull off the turtle from your flesh. The turtle will let go on its own. 

Forcing it to let go of you can cause it to bite you even harder and damage more skin and flesh. Killing the turtle is also not a good idea because removing a dead turtle’s grip is even harder. 

If any water sources are available, put the turtle into the water. It should let go immediately. Then back away from the turtle. 

Snapping Turtle In Yard

How to Treat a Snapping Turtle Bite Wound?

The bite of a snapping turtle can be painful, but the aftereffect can cause more harm. Without timely treatment, your wound can get infected. Like other turtles, snapping turtles also carry salmonella. Salmonella can cause severe stomach problems, diarrhea, and vomiting. 

So, you must treat snapping turtle bite wounds right away. Here is how you can treat a snapping turtle bite wound:

  • If the skin is not pierced or damaged, wash the bitten area with an antiseptic soap and warm water.
  • You must clean the wound if the bite breaks the skin. Remove any dirt or debris from the wound. Then use a clean cloth or gauze bandage to apply pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding. 
  • Keep on the pressure until the bleeding stops. The wound should stop bleeding within 10 minutes or so. 
  • For minor wounds or superficial cuts, apply antibiotic ointments to kill the bacteria. 
  • Deep and serious wounds may not stop bleeding even after 10 minutes of pressure application. In that case, you should go to the hospital or call medical personnel to treat your wound. 

How to Behave Around a Snapping Turtle?

If you live in the USA near freshwater sources, you may see a snapping turtle once in a while. Since you do not want to get bitten by a snapping turtle, you must know how to behave around them. 

Here are some tips you can follow to avoid getting bitten by a snapping turtle:

Keep Your Distance

Want to avoid getting bitten by a snapping turtle? Then avoid getting near one. Keep your distance if you spot a snapping turtle near water or on the road. Watch it from a safe distance if you are curious. Sometimes you cannot ignore the turtles. In that case, call the animal control service in your area. 

Do not Provoke Them

Snapping turtles are calm until they are provoked. If you see a snapping turtle, do not get close and irritate it. Many people poke snapping turtles to get a reaction. Thus, the turtle gets stressed and tries to bite out of fear. 

Don’t Startle Them

Land or water, where ever you see a snapping turtle, try not to startle them. Don’t swim close to a snapping turtle and make loud noises. A startled snapping turtle may react by snapping at you. So, move away from a snapping turtle as quietly as possible. 

Don’t Trap Them

Don’t try to trap a snapping turtle in the corner. When snapping turtles sense danger, their first instinct is to find a water source to swim in or escape somehow. If it cannot get away from you, it will bite you. So, keep some space between you and a snapping turtle to give it a choice to get away. 

Learn How to Hold Them Safely

You might find a snapping turtle in distress, needing help to get to the water or cross the road. If you have to pick up a snapping turtle, know how to do that properly. Handling a snapping turtle in the wrong way can result in getting bitten by it. 

Call an expert if you do not know how to pick up a snapping turtle.  

How to Pick up a Snapping Turtle?

Don’t try to pick up a snapping turtle by its tail. Snapping turtles can be large and heavy. When you pick up a turtle by its tail, its weight can put pressure on its organs or dislocate its spine. 

Also, never put your hands close to the snapper’s mouth while picking up. The turtle does not know you are trying to help. It considers you a threat when you get near it. So, it will try its best to bite you. 

Here is how you can pick up an adult snapping turtle and not get bittern: 

  • The best way to pick up a turtle is by the very back of its shell. Grab the edge of the shell with both hands. Then lift the turtle. However, this method is suitable for a short distance. 
  • It can be difficult to lift a large and heavy snapping turtle by the back of its shell. To pick up a large snapping turtle, first, you must lift it up by the back shell just enough to put one of your hands under it. 
  • Your hand should be between the rear legs of the turtle. You can either put your other hand on the top of the shell or hold the base of the tail. After holding the snapper securely, pick it up. 

You have to be very careful while picking up a snapping turtle. You may not get bittern when you hold a snapping turtle from behind, but you can get scratched by its large back claws. 

If you get scratched by a snapping turtle, make sure to wash your hands properly and apply antiseptic ointment. It will be a bad idea to try picking up a snapping turtle without knowing how to. So, only help a snapping turtle if you really have to. 


So, are snapping turtles dangerous? The answer depends on when and how you encounter a snapping turtle. They can bite, scratch, or snap at people when they get picked up.

Like any other animal, snapping turtles also get concerned about safety. They know they are slow animals, making them easy prey for many predators. Hence, they bite to keep their predators away. Avoid putting a snapping turtle in a stressful situation, and you should be perfectly fine. 

About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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