Can Turtles Bite? Are The Bites Dangerous?

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

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Unless provoked, turtles are not known to exhibit any aggressive behavior, and they certainly won’t try to bite you or anybody else. Yet, just like every other species, turtles require a certain means of protecting themselves against their enemies, and biting appears to be a fairly effective method of defense for the vast majority of creatures.

Turtles can bite. In most cases, a turtle would only bite if it perceives that it is in imminent danger or if it mistakes you for something to eat. Your turtle might bite if it feels threatened, but it won’t do so without a solid reason.

Since we now know that turtles can and will bite, let’s take a closer look at the circumstances in which they will do so, the severity of the bite, and what you should and should not do if you are bitten by a turtle.

When Is It Possible For A Turtle To Bite You?

As I said at the beginning of this article, the majority of turtles will attempt to bite a person if they believe the human to be a threat or if the turtle believes the person to be food.

The scenario in which they feel like they are at risk is somewhat more understandable, but the scenario with the food is rather more peculiar, so let’s begin with that one.

When They Perceive You As Food

Although turtles are usually capable of distinguishing between a person and a little bit of meat or vegetable, there are situations in which a turtle might confuse one of your fingers or toes as an item it would ordinarily consume.

At this point, it’s important to keep in mind that turtles, whether domesticated or wild, are opportunistic eaters. this means that they will eagerly seize any edible opportunity that presents itself.

If you attempt to serve a turtle using your hand, the turtle may bite you. This is mainly unintentional action on the part of the turtle.

Nonetheless, it is possible for the turtle to confuse one of your fingers for a meal, or it may just bite without meaning to.

If you wish to keep your turtle from mistaking your fingers and toes for meals, you should not ever wander near them barefoot.

Particularly if there is long grass in the vicinity or any other form of thick foliage, as well as not feeding them using your hand straight.

Moving on now, let’s discuss the second most typical scenario in which a turtle may attempt to bite you.

When A Turtle Is Scared

For a turtle, the only way out of an impending attack is to make the first move of attacking. Thus if it feels cornered, it will attempt to bite you.

While turtles aren’t known for being very outgoing, you shouldn’t expect them to try biting you the moment they lay eyes on you.

As wild turtles are often frightened, you should avoid approaching an unfamiliar one too closely that it mistakes your presence for an attack.

Not all of them will be afraid the moment you set foot in their direction, but the vast majority of them will either flee, retreat inside their shell, or attempt to bite you if you get anywhere close to them.

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But, since pet turtles have become more accustomed to people, they won’t attempt to bite them right away. Yet if you treat them violently, they may attempt to bite you, particularly because they can’t move anywhere else.

Keeping a pet turtle safely requires knowing where it came from and how old it is. An older pet turtle will be less frightened of people since it has been around them for longer.

And the turtle’s origin is also highly crucial. A wild-caught turtle will be far more defensive and will attempt to bite much more often than a captive-bred turtle.

Now that I’ve discussed the most likely scenarios in which a turtle might attempt to attack you, I’ll show you just how strong a turtle’s bite is and describe what it’s like to be bitten by one.

What Is the Strength Of A Turtle’s Bite?

While discussing the strength of a turtle bite, it is important to consider the variables that affect the bite.

It would be sort of meaningless to discuss species straight. Instead, we’ll look at the food and stature. There are several distinct varieties of turtle, and they are all fairly diverse, even members belonging to one species can be significantly different.

Food Habit

If you’re worried about being bitten by a turtle, the very first point you should figure out is whether or not it feeds on flesh.

The bite of a turtle will often be stronger when it consumes meat than when it does not. The reason for this isn’t because those who don’t eat meat don’t receive enough proteins or anything similar. Rather, they don’t consume meat since it’s how they’ve developed.

You’ll need a stronger bite and a finer mouth since meat is tougher to bite than plants. As a result, the bite of turtles that consume flesh has become much more potent.

And in the case of certain species, they have also grown a pointed beak, making the bite much more hazardous.

The Dimensions

The dimension of the turtle is another crucial consideration. A larger turtle has greater muscles and larger jaws, which will increase the bite’s force.

For instance, a Hermann tortoise with a length of approximately 6.5 inches and a vegetarian diet does not consume any flesh.

A box turtle is 6 inches long and consumes meat, fruits, and vegetables in its meals. They are around the same size, but as you can see from the samples, their diets vary greatly.

Turtle bites are not very painful, but how painful they are will depend on where you were bitten.

1. Fingers And Toes

Your fingers and toes are the two regions where turtle bites occur most often. While feeding them by hand, it’s easy for them to bite your fingers.

And if you go past your turtles’ outside cage wearing slippers, they can bite you since they believe your feet are meat.

Your fingers are rather thick, and a box turtle’s bite isn’t very forceful, so you probably wouldn’t feel quite so much discomfort or hurt if you get bitten.

You’ll experience some little discomfort. Your skin will likely get red for a short period of time, but that is often all that will happen.

2. For Box Turtles

The painful sensation you get from a box turtle biting your toe is comparable to the degree of discomfort you would experience from hitting your toe on the table’s leg, and the agony fades almost instantly.

It may sometimes cause a few scars, but in most cases, they should disappear within a few hours or, in the most severe case, within a few days. Much less agony should result from a tiny box turtle biting you.

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Altogether the sensation you experience when a box turtle bites your finger is similar to the ache you would experience when attempting to bite your finger.

However, the pain is just somewhat uncomfortable rather than excruciating. The fact that you didn’t anticipate having your finger bitten is the primary factor that differentiates purposefully biting your own finger from having your finger bitten by a turtle.

The hurt gradually became less severe over time as you became used to the possibility of being bitten by them, and I personally believe this is due to the unexpected aspect beginning to fade.

3. For Hermann Tortoise

There is a little improvement in biting tolerance while dealing with a Hermann tortoise. The discomfort fades gone almost as quickly, and any residual indications vanish practically at the same pace.

4. For Smaller Turtles

A shallow cut is often the only kind of injury for smaller turtles such as sliders,  cooters, and map turtles bites. They are unable to cause serious damage to the skin with their bites. Large turtles, such as some species of softshell and snapping turtles, are an exception to this rule.

5. Softshell Turtles

Since softshell turtles have such long necks, they may reach behind them to bite you in the rear. Bites from huge softshell turtles may be quite dangerous.

In contrast to the relatively little harm that can be caused by bites from smaller turtles, bites from softshell turtles are notoriously painful.

Now that you know what a turtle bite feels like, let’s look at what you should and shouldn’t do if you are bitten by one.

How To Respond If A Turtle Bites You?

There is not much that has to be done in response to a little bite that poses no health risk, such as the ones that were caused by my turtle. Just remember to give yourself good hand washing before you proceed with anything else.

And make an effort to keep the turtle on its own for a while. As I previously mentioned, turtles typically bite when they are anxious, when they believe they are in threat, or when they mistakenly believe they are eating food.

Regardless of the reason for the bite, turtles will feel slightly upset briefly following biting someone, so it is best to leave them unattended.

Whenever there is any sign of blood, you should immediately stop whatever it is that you were working on and go clean the cut.

Even when the wound is relatively little, it is still possible for it to get septic, which may be a very hazardous situation.

When you have completed the disinfecting process, another thing I would suggest is going to the doctor. If more care for the injury is required, a medical expert is qualified to advise you on this matter.

If the turtle bites you and won’t let go, you have no choice but to wait till it lets go before attempting to remove the bite.

Taking any other action will simply make the situation much direr. It is possible that doing so will go against common sense, yet taking that course of action is the most sensible response available given the circumstances.

If it still won’t budge after a minute, you might try to get it to release by splashing water over it very slowly and cautiously.

What Should You Not Do When A Turtle Bites You?

If a turtle bites you and won’t let go, you shouldn’t pull or strike the turtle in an effort to get it to let go of its grip.

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If you strike the turtle, it will simply increase the amount of force it is applying to the bite, and it will keep it for further.

If you continue to strike the turtle until it passes out or loses consciousness, the situation will only grow worse for you.

This is because after the turtle is asleep, the mouth will exert far more force, and the turtle won’t be capable of releasing the finger from their grip.

In addition, the procedure that you are going through will only make your injuries worse. As I’ve already said, the best course of action is to remain cool and patient till the turtle removes its bite. This is true even if it may seem paradoxical.

After being bitten by a turtle, you need to be extremely cautious about how you interact with your hands and should avoid putting them close to your mouth or anywhere else that contains food.

Since turtles may contain a large number of germs and even bacteria at times, it is not a smart option to transmit them around. Rather, you should go over to the washbasin and clean your hands as quickly as you can.

If you are bitten by a turtle because it’s anxious, the best thing to do is to stop stressing it. Leave the location immediately and do not return.

Unless you have urgent matters with the turtle, you should leave it alone for a while and return later. The turtle should be able to settle down and relax within a few hours at the very most.

If you are bitten, it’s important to know what to react to and what to refrain from doing, but it’s even more important to know how to prevent being bitten in the first place, so let’s speak about that as well.

How To Prevent Being Bitten By Your Turtle?

Avoiding contact with your fingers seems to be an effective strategy to safeguard them. therefore use the ground to scatter the food instead of feeding the turtle with your hands.

The method by which turtles get their food is of little concern to them as long as they do. If you wish to safeguard your toenails, you must conceal them. Therefore, you should not wear sandals or any other footwear that reveals them.

If you want to avoid being bitten by your turtle and you own one, you must ensure that it gets enough food.

When a turtle is starving, it will attempt to consume anything that even loosely resembles food in order to satisfy its need.

Turtles are typically calm creatures, but if you stress them out and make them feel like they are in jeopardy, they may become aggressive and bite you. To avoid this, avoid putting turtles in a stressful situations.

If a native turtle seems anxious, it is best to give it space. Turtles have been known to bite if approached too closely.

When you correctly handle a turtle, there is no possibility that you will be bitten by it. Nonetheless, you should avoid bringing your hand anywhere near its mouth since this increases the likelihood that you will.

Before You Go

Turtles, like many other animals, have a way to protect themselves. Turtles, particularly softshell turtles, will bite if they are caught or sense attacked in any manner.

While relying on their hard shell to defend themselves from many of their adversaries, turtles can also use camouflaging or release chemicals. To learn more check out – What Are The Defense Mechanisms Of Turtles?

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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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