How To Pick Up A Snapping Turtle? [Handle With Care]

How To Pick Up A Snapping Turtle

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

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Spotting a snapping turtle crossing a road or roaming around a lake or pond side in the late spring is not uncommon. It is that time of year when the snapping turtles, especially the females, move from different wetlands to find a suitable place to nest.

What will you do if you spot a snapping turtle crossing the road? Do you know how to pick a snapping turtle and move it away?

To pick up a snapping turtle,

  1. Approach from behind and grasp the creature by the back of the shell.
  2. Lift the turtle gently and move it as fast as possible.
  3. Place the snapping turtle on the ground and quickly take a step back.

Snapping turtles are dangerous biters. A few more details will help you eliminate any risk while picking up the turtle. Gladly, I got your back. This article will include everything you should know about picking up and handling a snapping turtle.

Importance Of Picking Up A Snapping Turtle Properly

We know snapping turtles as an aggressive species. But the truth is, these turtles show no offensive behavior if they are handled and treated gently.

Rough touch stresses out the snapping turtles, and they end up biting whoever is closest to them. Do not take the attacking capabilities of these creatures lightly. Snapping turtles can bite off human fingers.

Hence, I recommend learning the right way to pick up a snapping turtle. If you are raising a snapping turtle, then the technique will benefit you a lot. Even if you do not own this species, the tricks will help you minimize any attack risk while handling a snapping turtle.

How To Pick Up A Baby Snapping Turtle?

Baby snapping turtles are small. The average size of the hatchlings is 1.5 inches, and so it is not hard to pick them up. Even your thumb and forefinger are enough for the task.

First, place your thumb on the rear of the carapace or upper shell of the baby snapping turtle. Then put your forefinger at the plastron, between the rear legs of the hatchling. With a solid grab and minimum pressure, pick up the baby snapping turtle.

The whole time, you should be gentle and cautious with handling and touching the hatchling.

How To Pick Up A Juvenile Snapping Turtle?

With months adding up to the baby snapping turtle’s age, it grows in both size and weight. Usually, a juvenile snapping turtle gets 3.5 to 5 inches big or even more. Thus, picking up the turtle with your thumb and forefinger is not safe anymore.

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Gently grab the juvenile snapping turtle by placing your forefinger and middle finger underneath in between its back legs and your thumb on the rear of the shell. The tail of the turtle should fall between your fingers. Then pick it up.

Your juvenile snapping turtle can weigh more than usual. In that case, use more fingers to support the turtle. As the turtle grows bigger, there will be more space at the plastron to place fingers.

Do not take any risk while handling the pet. A slip or a fall is enough to cause shell damage to the snapping turtle.

How To Pick Up Adult Snapping Turtles?

The common snapping turtles grow about 8 to 14 inches, sometimes up to 20 inches. You can assume their weight from the size. Trying to pick up the adult snapping turtle with one hand is not recommendable. You would need to occupy both your hands while handling an adult snapper.

Here is a step by step process showing the right way to pick up an adult snapping turtle:

  1. Snapping turtles are good with vision, and they will sense your presence if you are not careful. Hence, confronting the turtle face to face is not a smart move, as the turtle will be alert. Instead, approach the snapping turtle from behind. Stay silent while advancing.
  2. It is time to use both your hands. Grab the snapping turtle gently from the back of its shell by placing one hand on each of its sides. Your hands should be behind the turtle’s rear legs, not in the middle.
  3. Before lifting the snapping turtle, make sure you have a good grip. Snapping turtles may grow as heavy as 75 lbs. Also, the habitat water can make the skin and shell slippery. A loose grip will increase the risk of inviting an accident.
  4. Lift the snapping turtle keeping its body as low to the ground as possible. It will minimize the risk of dropping or any injury if your hand slips.
  5. Snapping turtle has a flexible neck and can reach a distance that you haven’t assumed. The turtle may sense danger due to the sudden movements. If the snapper extends its neck and bites you with its sharp jaws, you can’t complain. To avoid such an incident, keep the head of the snapping turtle pointed to the ground. Not only that, avoid any close contact with the turtle and hold him away from your body.
  6. Gently put the snapping turtle on the ground or wherever you are planning to move the creature. Release your hand grip from behind and step back. Snapping turtles are fast when in a defensive mood. So, step back quickly to avoid any bites or scratches.
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How To Pick Up An Injured Snapping Turtle?

Snapping turtles oven get hit by cars while crossing the road. The injured turtles can not move due to the unbearable pain. As a turtle lover, you should always come forward if you spot any wounded snapping turtle on your way.

Remember, injured snapping turtles are in a more vulnerable state. So, you have to be careful while touching or lifting the creatures. Here is how you can do the task:

  1. Observe the physical condition of the wounded turtle. Hurting the turtle by pressing on its weak point is the last thing you want.
  2. Grab the snapping turtle from its back shell if the spot is intact. The pet will act more aggressively because of the injury.
  3. Put the turtle in a container or box and take it to the vet.

If the condition of the snapping turtle is severe, contact any emergency pet shelter or the state wildlife authority. Do not forget to check this article to get the step-by-step turtle rescuing guidelines.

Tips And Warnings To Handle A Snapping Turtle

If you have read this far, then you already know the trick to pick up a snapping turtle. Here are a few bonus tips for you:

  • Snapping turtles are heavy, and living in the water can make the creature a bit slippery. To get a good grip, wear protective gloves. These gloves will also minimize any attack or bite from the snapping turtles.
  • Because of the exposed neck, snapping turtles feel vulnerable. They stay alert when moving on the land. So, while approaching the turtles, do not make any noise. The snapping turtles can sense your presence.
  • I have seen videos where people pick up snapping turtles by their tails or rear legs. Tasks like this are so stupid and a sign of animal cruelty. Lifting the snappers by their tails or back legs can cause severe injury.

Why Do Snapping Turtles Cross Roads And How To Help?

Snapping turtles crossing the road is actually an interesting sight. Have you ever thought about why the turtles do this?

Well, female snapping turtles are most often spotted moving between the wetland. Usually, these turtles are either in search of nesting places or returning home after laying eggs.

The newly hatched or young turtles also migrate from their birthplace to any suitable living water source. Male snapping turtles also roam around in search of a perfect mate.

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You know, disturbing turtles in the wild is illegal. But, helping the snapping turtles crossing the road is actually encouraged by the wildlife authority. The experts suggest picking up the turtles and moving them towards the exact location they’re headed.

Sometimes, you may doubt the direction of the snapping turtle. But do not mistake redirecting its way. Snapping turtles are stubborn and have a sense of tracking their way. Leaving the turtle in the wrong direction will do harm to them.

Snapping Turtle Bite While Picking Up: What To Do?

Snapping turtles are ferocious biters. A moment of negligence while picking up the turtle, and you might have to suffer that painful jaw bite. What will you do if a snapper bites you hard?

My first advice to you is, do not panic. Pulling off your hand or pushing the snapping turtle’s mouth will do no good, but the opposite. When you force a snapping turtle to release its jaws, the turtle gets frightened. Hence, it engraves its jaw deeper than before.

You should better wait for the turtle to release the grip. Once the snapping turtle lets go of the bite, step back quickly. Another way to loosen the jaw grip of the snapping turtle is to submerge it in water.

A snapping turtle’s bite is painful, no doubt about that. But it will not take your life. Clean the wound with warm water, soap, and antibacterial solutions. The bite will leave nothing more than a bruise.

What Is The Proper Way To Pick Up A Turtle?

When picking up a large turtle, place one hand on each side of the turtle shell, between the front and rear legs. Ensure a good grip and lift the turtle from the surface. Keep its head and body downwards to minimize the risk of falling and avoid bites. Put the turtle on the desired ground, box, or container.

Aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles are good kickers. They will use their legs to kick you or at least give you a scratch for rough touch. Usually, gentle touch does not bother any turtle.

If you have a baby turtle, you can pick it up using your thumb and forefinger. Place your fingers on the upper shell and underneath. And, of course, be gentle to the turtle.

Remember, too much handling can stress the turtle. So, you should leave the turtle alone. Do not pick it up if it is not necessary or the pet is not comfortable.


Picking up an alligator snapping turtle is more challenging than handling a common one. Always be careful while lifting the turtle. The goal here is to avoid any harm to the turtle or getting hurt by the creature.

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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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