Can You Tame A Snapping Turtle?

Snapping Turtle Release Guide

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

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Snapping turtles may seem terrifying for their size and disposition to many people. But some turtle lovers find snapping turtles fascinating. Keeping a snapping turtle as a pet requires lots of patience. They are not easy to handle, like other turtles. So, can you tame a snapping turtle? 

You cannot truly tame a snapping turtle. It might become friendly after a lot of time and work, but the risk of getting bitten by it still remains. Also, not all snapping turtles have the same personality. While some snapping turtles can be tamed easily, others may not. 

In this article, I will tell you how you can get your snapping turtle to trust you so that it becomes less aggressive toward you. Before that, let us know the risks involved with snapping turtles.

What Are the Risks Involved with Snapping Turtles? 

Both Alligator and Common snapping turtles are shy turtles. They do not want to be disturbed, so they try to avoid people as much as possible. 

Although they move pretty fast in the water, they are slow on the land. Because of their size and structure, they cannot get inside their shell as most turtles can. So, when they are attacked or feel threatened, they bite their threats. 

Snapping turtles have developed a powerful set of jaws. They have no teeth but can still bite hard with their sharp beak. An adult snapping turtle’s bite is so powerful that it can tear off your finger or toe!

However, snapping turtles born and brought up in captivity can be less defensive than wild ones. But do not mistake thinking they will not bite. Snapping turtles are naturally protective of their territory and do not enjoy constant attention from their owner. 

So, you will still have the risk of getting snapped by your pet snapping turtle. You will notice that even a baby snapping turtle snaps whenever they feel threatened.  

How to Tame a Snapping Turtle? 

You may want to get a snapping turtle as a pet, or you may already have one. You should know by now that it is not possible to truly tame a snapping turtle, but you can expect to get it comfortable around you.

As I have mentioned earlier, it is easier to tame a snapping turtle from an early age. A baby snapping turtle will grow friendlier towards you with regular attention and care. 

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Do not expect the same acknowledgment from an adult snapping turtle. However, you can still try. Now, here are some ways I have got my snapping turtles comfortable around me: 

Observe The Snapping Turtle 

The first step is to understand your snapping turtle’s nature. Snapping turtles can have unique personalities. Some can be very shy and defensive hence, hard to tame. But some snapping turtles are less defensive. 

So, observe your turtle’s behavior for a few days before trying to tame it. See how it interacts with the surrounding of its enclosure. Then watch how it behaves when you are around it. It might snap at you when you are too close, retreat to a hiding place, or it might stay still. 

When you find your turtle unbothered by your presence, you may have a good chance of getting it friendlier. But if the turtle snaps, do not force it to interact with you. Then you have to get yourself familiar with it. 

Food Association 

Offering food to a snapping turtle is the most effective way to tame it. Many people feed their snapping turtles in the enclosure. But I prefer feeding the snapping turtle in a separate bowl of water.

When you transfer your snapping turtle to a separate bowl, you must hold it carefully. Otherwise, you can be bitten. You will learn more about holding a snapping turtle later. After transferring the snapper into the feeding bowl, offer its favorite food. 

I prefer feeding a cooked chicken piece. Do not hand-feed a snapping turtle if you have just got it. The turtle will not know you well. As a result, it will snap at you. Baby or adult, snapping turtles can hurt you really bad. Besides, your turtle may associate your hand with food and bite when your hands get close to its mouth. 

You can just leave the food in the water bowl and wait for your turtle to eat. Repeat holding and transferring your snapper to a feeding bowl so that it associates your holding with tasty food. So, each time you pick it up, it may think it is going to be rewarded. 

Get the Turtle Familiar with You

Feeding time is the best time to familiarize your snapping turtle with you. While the turtle eats, you can stay still. Watch your turtle eat its food and let it gaze at you. 

When the turtle realizes you are not harming it, and it will eat in peace, it will trust you more. Gradually, you can stand close to the bowl while it eats. You may also try to pet its shell. But back away immediately if the turtle stops eating and lifts its shell. 

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Build A Safe Zone 

In the beginning, your snapping turtle will not trust you. So, it will try to hide from you. You can put a log or artificial shelter in the enclosure where your snapping turtle can hide. 

When your turtle is in the shelter, do not disturb it or force it to come out. Disturbing a snapping turtle makes it defensive and aggressive. So, you must give the turtle some time. It will eventually come out when it does not feel threatened anymore. 

It makes your snapping turtle feel safer as it feels there is a safe place to go to in times of danger. Since you will not disturb the turtle, it will see you as less of a threat. 

Avoid Unnecessary Touch

Snapping turtles are not social by nature. They do not like to be touched or petted like dogs or cats. So, try not to touch your snapping turtle too often. If a snapping turtle is resting, do not irritate it. You do not want to overstress a snapping turtle, trust me.

If you have children at home, do not let them touch or get close to a snapping turtle. You can touch or hold your snapping turtle if you need to check on its health or move it somewhere. Always try not to avoid getting close to a snapping turtle’s mouth. 

Provide a Healthy Environment 

If you do not want your turtle to be snappy, keep it happy. So, how do you keep your snapping turtle? You can do that by keeping it healthy and stress-free. For that, you have to provide a suitable enclosure for your snapping turtle.

Snapping turtles prefer lots of space. So, many snapping turtle owners keep their turtles in an outdoor pond. If you want to keep your snapping turtle indoors, put it in a large tank, a tub, or a modified container. 

Although snapping turtles spend little time on the land, you should still provide ample ground for them to come out to dry thoroughly. Feed your snapping turtle regularly and keep the tank clean. 

You should also control the temperature and light of the enclosure to maintain your turtle’s health. Providing an ideal environment for a snapping turtle is very important for gaining its trust. 

How to Hold Snapping Turtles? 

Sometimes, it becomes necessary to hold a snapping turtle. You do not want to get bitten by a snapping turtle, so it is crucial to learn how to hold one properly. Not knowing how to hold a snapping turtle properly can hurt the turtle. As a result, it may see you as a threat. 

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Picking Up a Baby Snapping Turtle

Here is how you hold a baby snapping turtle: 

  1. To hold a baby snapping turtle, approach it from its behind or side so that it does not see you coming. Snapping turtles get alert when they are approached up front. It may run away or bite you. 
  2. Put your thumb under the turtle’s back from behind and your index finger on top of the shell. Make sure to keep your fingers far from its mouth. 
  3. When you hold the baby turtle, it should look like you are pinching with your fingers. Keep your fingers far from its mouth. Then lift up the turtle from the ground. 

You may have a juvenile snapping turtle which can be stronger than baby snapping turtles. In that case, you need to hold the turtle with both hands. It should be like holding a sandwich. 

Picking Up an Adult Snapping Turtle

Here is how you hold an adult snapping turtle:

  1. When you approach an adult snapping turtle, try to make as little noise as possible. Adult snapping turtles are always alert and aware of their surroundings. If the turtle realizes you want to catch it, it may bite you.
  2. Always hold the turtle on the back half of the shell. An adult snapping turtle has a long neck, which is quite flexible. Then place your thumbs on the edge of the back half of the shell.
  3. Gently lift up the turtle and put one of your hands under the turtle. Next, put our other hand on top of the shell. 
  4. Your hand should go between the hind legs of the turtle and then rest on the plastron of your turtle. Again, your hand should be on the rear side of the plastron, where the turtle cannot reach you. 
  5. Finally, lift up the turtle from the ground. You must hold firmly as adult snapping turtles are strong and may try to escape. 


So, can you tame a snapping turtle? As you can see, it is not possible to tame a snapping turtle like other pets. No matter how friendly a snapping turtle gets, do not touch it too often. It is not easy to predict their behavior. 

Always observe your snapping turtle’s behavior before getting close to it. With proper care, you can eventually make it less hostile toward you. 

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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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