Can A Snapping Turtle Bite A Finger Off?

Can A Snapping Turtle Bite A Finger Off

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

You may have heard stories about snapping turtles biting off a human finger. Turtles of any species are aggressive without any doubt. But are they capable of separating a finger from the hand? Or is this another nonsense you find on the internet?

A snapping turtle can bite a finger off. Considering the huge size, the sharp jaw-like mouth, and biting force, it is possible for the snapping turtles to bite a human finger off completely.

In the following article, I will discuss the vulnerability of a snapping turtle and its biting strength. Also, you will get to know your responsibility if someone falls victim to the brutal bite of a snapping turtle.

Can A Snapping Turtle Bite A Finger Off?

A snapping turtle absolutely has the physical ability to bite a finger off. The children are especially the victim of this case.

You will be surprised to know that the snapping turtle is one of the two US reptiles that are capable of biting off the human body. The other one is none other than the mighty alligator. The interesting fact is, not all snapping turtles can bite a finger off.

Two families of snapping turtles are available in the USA. Between these two, the common snapping turtles are smaller in both size and weight. Data indicates that the average weight of a common snapping turtle ranges from 10 lb to 35 lb (4.5 kg to 16 kg). The bulkiest common snapping turtle holds the record weight of 75 lb or 34 kg.

Common snapping turtles can give a miserable scar with their toothless bites. Still, it is not that powerful to chop off a finger. Common snapping turtles are incapable of this task due to their smaller size.

On the other hand, the alligator snapping turtles are huge and bulky. The average weight of the alligator snapping turtles is around 155 lb to 170 lb (70 kg to 79 kg). Some turtles of this species grow more than 200 lb or 91 kgs, which is bigger than the sea turtles.

The cutting-edge sharp jaws of these alligator snapping turtles are not less than a biting tool. Due to the bulky size, this species can generate high pressure with its beaks. The produced force is enough to chop a finger off only with the jaw.

Astonishingly, alligator snapping turtles are the only turtle species with this capability. Even these turtles can chop off a wooden broomstick only using their toothless beaks.

snapping turtle bite

Snapping Turtles Bite A Finger Off: The Ultimate Proofs

Do you still not believe me? Allow me to share a few cases with you.

A few years back, a case in Louisiana was reported. It said that someone had cut a snapping turtle open and found a human finger in its belly. The report is convincing because the state has legalized the consumption of big turtles. Even people make a stew of the turtles and celebrate their cultural traditions.

Recently, the state authority has prohibited the collection and killing of snapping turtles and most other endangered species. Still, people are not so aware of the law.

Another incident was reported, and the victim was a 15-year-old boy. He found an alligator snapping turtle near a stream and decided to move it to some other location. All he wanted was to take a photograph of the turtle. Then all of a sudden, the snapping turtle snapped and bit his left-hand index finger off.

The last incident happened in Alabama in a bar. Yes, you have heard me right. According to the report, one alligator snapping turtle became the concentration of a bar bet. The challenge was to reach into the turtle’s mouth before it shut.

Do you find the challenge interesting, or dangerous? Well, the bar men found the task enthusiastic after drinking beer or alcohol and participated.

The loser of the show now has eight fingers in total.

Participants of this challenge were absolute fools. You can not expect manners from an alligator turtle, especially when you are playing with it.

In the wild, the alligator turtles have a strategy to attract the prey. The creatures sit on the bottom of the river, keeping the mouth wide open and wiggle the bright red worm-like tongue outside. The fishes confuse the tongue with worms and come closer. Taking advantage of the moment, the alligator snapping turtles shut the mouth and enjoy a feast.

The same case happens when you set the alligator snapping turtle on the bar table. It will sit with its mouth open and bite anything that comes close to the tongue.

Can A Snapping Turtle Bite Your Toe Off?

Apparently, there are not many cases of snapping turtles taking a toe off. Still, considering their powerful jaw and attacking force, a snapping turtle definitely can bite your toe off.

From the above, you may have guessed how powerful and severe a snapping turtle bite is. Though the common snappers leave a memorable scar with their beaks, the alligator snapping turtles can take the toe off.

I heard one story once about the powerful bite of an alligator snapping turtle. It happened on a roadside when a middle-aged lady approached an alligator snapping a turtle resting. The lady prodded the creature with her flip-flop, and within a blink of an eye, the turtle attacked.

The lady was lucky enough to save both her flip-flop and her toe. If she lasted a second, she would spend the rest of her life with 8 or 9 toes in total.

Incidents like this often happen in the countryside. The snapping turtles barely bite or attack humans when in the water. It is because the creatures have enough space to escape. However, while resting on the land, the snapping turtles stay on an alert mode.

If you poke its mouth or shell with your foot, get ready for a painful bite or to lose a toe. In case you are handling the creature in the wrong way, your fingers are at the stake.

Can An Alligator Snapping Turtle Bite Your Arm Off?

No authority has ever reported a case where an alligator turtle has taken an arm off. However, most experts believe the sharp beaks and forceful snap are enough for an alligator snapping turtle to bite a human arm off.

Theoretically speaking, an alligator turtle’s biting force is more than the lions and closer to the tigers. While a lion and a tiger have their own sharp teeth, the edge-cutting beaks of the alligator turtle fulfill the lack of teeth. Hence, I wager an alligator snapping turtle is able to bite an arm off.

The snap-off may not be as clean as other animals. Also, turtle keepers stay in no position where they have the risk of losing an arm. Moreover, these creatures can barely open their mouth as wide as the human arm. Still, theoretically, an alligator snapping turtle can bite an arm off.

How Bad Do Snapping Turtles Bite

How Bad Do Snapping Turtles Bite?

Snapping turtles bite with such aggression and intensity that most things do not stand in front of them. With the sharp beak, a snapping turtle can smash apples, pineapples, bananas, cucumbers, soda cans, soda bottles, electronic devices like cell phones, wooden broomstick, and God knows what. Even if the turtle fails to smash something, it will still do good damage.

Usually, the aggressive alligator snapping turtles bite everything off that comes into their sight. Their bites are pretty miserable and can make the victim bleed. However, a common snapping turtle does not cause this much damage.

The common snapping turtles are smaller in size. Still, they are able to hold a powerful grip with their jaws and give a lifetime scar. The wound may bleed but will recover with time.

Snapping Turtle Bite Force: How Powerful Is A Snapping Turtle Bite?

According to the collected data, a common snapping turtle bites with the power of 208 to 226 Newtons. On the other hand, the bite of an alligator snapping turtle possesses the powerful force of 160 Newtons. The bite of a snapping turtle is strong enough to make the victim bleed.

You know the snapping turtles are supposed to own the fiercest bite. But no, the report says that the common toad head turtles clamp their mouth with more power. Their hardest bite was measured at 432 Newtons. It is twice the score of a common snapping turtle.

We, humans, can generate almost 1100 to 1300 Newton powerful bites with our second molar. Doesn’t it sound more dangerous than the snapping turtle? Then how do those turtles smash anything with their bites, and we can not?

Though the average bites are registered around 209 or 160 Newtons, the snapping turtles can close their jaws with more power. A study says that a common snapping turtle can easily clamp its jaws with 656.81 Newton force.

Moreover, the jaw of the snapping turtle is designed to utilize every inch of the force. The sharp beaks are perfect for primary shearing. That is what makes the snapping turtle bites so powerful.

What Is The Alligator Snapping Turtle’s Bite Force In psi?

An alligator snapping turtle can produce around 1000 psi biting force. The sharp jaws of the turtles help to generate such powerful bites.

You will be astonished to know that some big animals, like a great white shark (625 psi), lion (650 psi), bear (925 psi), etc. own less biting force than an alligator turtle. The high pressure along with the razor-like beak is enough to slice your fingers and toes.

Do you wonder why the alligator snapping turtles have more powerful bites when the common snapping turtles own more biting pressure? The answer is hidden in their size. These turtles are bulkier and have more wide and sharp jaws.

The alligator snapping turtle may not possess a high biting force. But they are an expert at converting the force into high pressure. The wider jaw, the more impact and more painful the bite are going to be. The alligator snappers can pierce through any hard thing by utilizing the high pressure generated with their beaks.

However, do not assume the common snapping turtles as innocent babies. They can also throw aggressive bites as their mouth clamps with more force. But yes, their bites are not as dangerous as that of the alligator snapping turtles due to their relatively smaller size.

Do Snapping Turtles Have Teeth?

The snapping turtles do not have teeth. However, snapping turtles are experts at preying and eating ducks, frogs, mice, and other small mammals. Also, they are known because of their fierce bites.

How do snapping turtles manage to bite or rip the small mammals off without teeth? Of course, with their bony, strong, and sharp beaks. Their razor-sharp jaws are not lesser than any cutting tool or weapon. These creatures use their honed beaks for hunting and fighting for safety.

However, a snapping turtle hatchling is born with egg teeth. These teeth help the babies break the eggshell and come out to the world. The egg teeth do not last for more than months, even less. Within a week, the yolk-like egg teeth will fall off from the baby turtle’s mouth.

Why Do Snapping Turtles Bite Humans?

Snapping turtles usually do not act aggressively without any proper cause. The turtles snap when they smell danger or a threat.

You know snapping turtles have hard shells and are bulky in size. Still, these creatures feel vulnerable because they can not withdraw their legs and head in the shell. The snapping turtles do not possess a sufficiently large plastron.

When a snapping turtle tucks in, the head stays lying on one side, exposing the neck. Hence, the turtles always feel the necessity to stay alert. If you go too close to the snapping turtle or mishandle it, the creature will snap at you without giving a second thought. And I bet a snapping turtle’s bite is the last thing you want.

However, the risk of getting bitten by a snapping turtle in water is closer to zero. But in the land, the turtles are vulnerable and stay alert. It is because, on land, the snapping turtles can barely outrun the attackers. So, biting is their weapon and the only protection they have got.

What To Do If A Snapping Turtle Bites you?

Imagine you or your friend have just been bitten by a snapping turtle. You know the bite of a snapping turtle can be painful and miserable. Also, there are other risks of getting infected by Salmonella or other bacteria. What will you do in this distress?

1. Release The Turtle’s grip

First of all, you have to release your hand or finger from the mouth of the turtle. If you force the turtle, it will clamp its bite with more force and pressure. So, do not pull the turtle’s mouth off you.

You need to submerge the snapping turtle in a waterbody. As this turtle feels more comfortable in the water, it will let go of your hand. Once the turtle releases its grip, move away as quickly as possible.

Let the turtle calm down on its own. If you have to remove the turtle from the water source, grasp the back of its shell. Handle the snapping turtle carefully and keep its mouth away from your body. Do not drop the turtle in panic. It will injure the turtle’s shell.

People with zero knowledge may try to hurt the turtle to make it release the grip. Remember hurting the snapping turtle will make it more stressed and panicked. Hence, the animal will clamp down its jaw with more pressure, which will cause more pain and injury.

2. Treat The Wound

Around 90% of the turtles carry Salmonella and other bacteria. A snapping turtle is not out of this stat. If the bite of a snapping turtle penetrates your skin, you must seek medical help.

Hold the wound under running tap water. Wash the area with plenty of soap water. Apply some antiseptic cream and do bandages if blood is coming out.

Cleaning the wound with warm water is more effective. Consult with a doctor, and he may suggest antibiotics.

How To handle A Snapping Turtle To Avoid The Painful Bites?

If you want to avoid the painful bite of a snapping turtle, you must handle it the right way. For a snapping turtle keeper, knowing the rules is necessary. Even if you do not pet snapping turtles, the handling techniques will benefit you anyway.

To pick up a small snapping turtle, gently use both your finger and thumb. Place your thumb on the back shell and the finger on the plastron between the rear legs. You may need more fingers if your turtle grows heavier.

To pick up a medium or adult snapping turtle, approach from behind without creating any noise. Place one hand underneath the turtle between the rear legs and another hand on the back shell.

Before lifting the turtle from above the ground, make sure you have a good grip.

If you are moving the snapping turtle, do the act quickly. Keep the turtle as lower to the ground as possible and make sure its head is pointed away from you. After placing the turtle on the floor, move away from the pet as soon as possible. Do the whole task with care.


A snapping turtle can bite a finger or toe off. Though it is a rare incident, you should always approach a snapping turtle carefully. Even while handling the turtle, wear gloves if possible.

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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