The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.
Snapping turtles are a unique species of turtles to have as pets. Those who have snapping turtles know how challenging it is to keep them. You are probably up for more challenges and wondering how to breed snapping turtles to get adorable baby snappers.
Breeding snapping turtles in captivity is difficult. But if you know the proper way to breed snapping turtles, you can increase the chance of getting hatchlings from them. So, in this article, I will tell you how you can successfully breed snapping turtles.
When Do Snapping Turtles Mate?
Before knowing the breeding process, you should know when snapping turtles mate. Knowing the time of mating is crucial for preparing your turtles for mating. Mature snapping turtles mate between April to November. Most of them prefer warmer months of the year for breeding.
Mating can have a tremendous toll on a female snapping turtle. Hence, you must prepare your mature snapping turtles before April to ensure a successful breeding process.
How to Prepare Your Snapping Turtles for Breeding
Breeding snapping turtles is a lengthy process. You need determination, patience, and time to continue. Above all, your snapping turtles must be in good health.
Here are the essential steps to prepare your snapping turtles for breeding:
Make Sure You Have A Male and Female Snapping Turtle
You need both male and female turtles to fertilize the egg inside the female turtle. You may have seen female snapping turtles laying eggs without mating. It does not mean that snapping turtles can lay fertile eggs without mating with a male.
Female turtles can carry fertile eggs for as long as three years after a successful mating process. They do not need to mate every season.
Male snapping turtles are generally larger than female snapping turtles. But it is not always true. So, you can look for other signs. The best way to separate the male from the female turtle is by looking at their tails.
Male snapping turtles have long and thinner tails compared to female turtles. Their cloaca is located close to the tip of the tail, so they can reach the cloaca of female turtles. Females have shorter and thicker tails with the cloaca near the edge of their back shall.
Another indicator is the shell of the turtles. While male snappers have flat or concave plastrons, females have flat or convex plastrons.
Choose Sexually Mature Turtles
You snapping turtles must be sexually mature to participate in the breeding process.
The average life of snapping turtles is 40 years. Male snapping turtles reach maturity when they are 4 to 6 years old. Female turtles take some extra time. They become sexually mature at the age of 7 to 8 years. Snapping turtles should have 6 to 8 inches long carapace by this age.
You have a better chance of getting baby snappers by keeping an ideal ratio of male-to-female snapping turtles in the enclosure. For example, if you have two mature male snapping turtles, there should be five mature female snapping turtles.
Male snapping turtles become aggressive during mating season. They pursue the females persistently. Male snapping turtles are enthusiastic even after mating several times. But female snapping turtles stop mating once they have enough sperms to fertilize their eggs.
Female turtles can become highly stressed because of the attention of male turtles, which can affect their health. So, having multiple females is crucial because a higher number of females diverts attention from a single female.
Moreover, male turtles can be pretty competitive. They bite and scratch each other to mate with the females. Hence, you better have more females to lower the competition. Also, remove the males from the cage after the mating process.
Let the Turtles Cool Down
In the wild, snapping turtles may brumate underwater depending on how cold the winter months get. The hibernation period for snapping turtles is from late fall to the end of winter. Snapping turtles become sexually active after they wake up from hibernation.
Many scientists believe it is important to let your snapping turtles brumate in winter if you want to breed them next summer. It increases the chances of successful breeding. Hibernation helps a turtle synchronize reproduction cycles and maintain thyroid activity.
Here is what you can do to cool your turtle before breeding them:
- If you keep your snapping turtles in an outdoor pond, let them hibernate under the pond during winter.
- For snapping turtles living indoors, you can lower the temperature between 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
- During this time, your turtle will become lethargic and will barely move. Let the turtles rest, and do not disturb them.
- Snapping turtles are often seen moving around underwater during this period. So, you can leave some food for them even if they may not always eat them.
- Let your snapping turtles cool down for six to eight weeks. Then slowly increase the enclosure’s temperature back to 78 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Provide Healthy Food
Mating is a challenging task for turtles. It requires energy and can cause lots of stress for a turtle, especially a female turtle. Therefore, you must keep them healthy and feed them nutritious food.
Snapping turtles are primarily carnivores. Besides protein-based foods, you may add some green vegies for essential vitamins. Here are some foods you can add to your snapping turtle’s diet:
- Crickets and grasshoppers
- Shrimp and crayfish
- Minnows and guppies
- Turkey and chicken meat
- Duckweed, moss
- Mustard and romaine
Commercial foods and multivitamins should also be added to the daily diet plan. Besides feeding healthy foods, do not forget calcium and Vitamin D3. Snapping turtles living outdoors get enough natural sunlight. But you must provide enough UVB and UVA light to your snapping turtles indoors.
Snapping Turtle Tank Setup Infographic
Want a printable version of this infographic? Click here!
How to Prepare the Enclosure for Mating and Nesting?
Creating an ideal breeding atmosphere is another crucial part of the successful breeding of snapping turtles. Snapping turtles are large compared to other pet turtles. So, the enclosure should have plenty of space to accommodate multiple snapping turtles.
- Put the sexually mature male and female snapping turtles in one enclosure when the mating season starts. They should be able to swim and move around freely.
- If you have any other turtle species in the enclosure, remove them. Snapping turtles prefer to live alone. They do not enjoy seeing different species of turtles or animals near them. When they feel threatened, they can bite hard at their threats.
- Prepare an area for nesting. Snapping turtles prefer laying eggs where the soil is loose, soft, and moist. So, you should also provide similar substrates for the nest. It should be 6 to 12 inches deep.
- In case you do not have enough space to build a nest in the enclosure, you can build a nest box for the female turtles.
- Finally, leave your snapping turtles alone. They may not act freely if you are around them all the time.
How Do Snapping Turtles Mate?
The male snapping turtles seek out the female snapping turtles for courtship. To show interest in mating, the male snapping turtles move their heads side to side and move their legs in front of a female snapping turtle.
An interested female snapping turtle also moves its head. Then the couple will return to the water and mate. But an uninterested female snapping turtle will snap at the male turtle to avoid mating.
The male snapping turtle mounts on top of the female turtle from behind. It puts its long tail under the female snapping turtle’s tail to connect its cloacal openings.
Snapping turtles can mate for hours. So, the female snapping turtle has to get to the water surface from time to time to breathe in oxygen. Swimming to the surface with a male snapping turtle on the back is stressful for the female turtle.
The male snapping turtle may hold on to the female snapping with its front claws even long after mating is complete. This way, he keeps his competitors away from the female and ensures his sperm fertilizes the eggs.
How Often Do Snapping Turtles Mate?
Snapping turtles mate several times during the mating season. The males mate as long as they find females to mate. However, female snapping turtles become reluctant to mate once they have enough sperms to fertilize their eggs.
The female turtles then concentrate on finding the right place to lay the fertilized eggs. They can carry fertilized eggs for two to three years. Hence, they do not participate in mating for these years. But mature male turtles will participate in mating every season.
What Happens After Snapping Turtles Mate?
Snapping turtles are aquatic turtles. They spend most of their life underwater. During mating season, they come to the land for mating and nesting. So, after mating, the snapping turtles return to the water.
Typically, a female snapping turtle lays eggs after three to six weeks of mating. When they are nearly at the end of their gestation period, they come out of the water again. They look for a safe place to build a nest. They become restless, and their appetite also changes.
It is a crucial time for female snapping turtles. You must prepare a nesting site or box for your female snapping turtle by this time.
Nesting and Incubation of Snapping Turtle Eggs
Most of them lay their eggs in early summer when the temperature is neither cold nor too hot.
The pregnant snapping turtle chooses a spot with soft and loose soil for nesting. They prefer places partially covered by plants, logs, or debris to hide their nests from predators.
Snapping turtles can lay between 20 to 40 ping-pong size eggs in one nest. Some can even lay 100 eggs! After they finish laying her eggs, she covers the nest and leaves the area. You can transfer the eggs to an incubator or let the eggs incubate naturally in the nesting site.
However, it is better to transfer the eggs to an artificial incubator where you can control the temperature and keep the eggs safe. Snapping turtle eggs can get infertile because of temperature fluctuation outside. The nests also become the target of various predators.
Read more about snapping turtle egg incubation and hatching here.
How to Determine the Sex of Snapping Turtle Babies
Another reason for using a commercial incubator is that you can control the temperature to determine the gender of snapping turtle hatchlings.
You probably heard that incubating eggs at cooler temperatures produces mostly male hatchlings while hatching them at a warmer temperature produces female hatchlings.
However, it is different for snapping turtles. In their case, eggs incubated in cooler temperatures produce female snapping turtles, and eggs hatched in warmer temperatures produce male snapping turtles.
So, if you want mostly female hatchlings, set the temperature at 68 degrees Fahrenheit. For male snapping turtle hatchlings, set the temperature at 73 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Most people want to have an equal number of male and female hatchlings. Set the incubator temperature to 70 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit for a balanced number of male and female snapping turtles.
When Do Snapping turtle Eggs Hatch?
Snapping turtle eggs hatch in fall, after 80 to 90 days of nesting. So, check on the snapping turtle eggs after 80 days. Do not attempt to break the eggs to help the hatchling come out. The Hatchlings should start cracking the eggs with their small beaks and come out on their own.
Some eggs may not hatch even after 90 days. Wait for a few days for the eggs to hatch. After that, discard those eggs because they have gone bad.
How to Take Care of Snapping turtle Hatchlings
Eggs that show cracks break completely in one or two days. In the wild, baby snapping turtles emerge from the nest and head toward the nearest water source.
But it is not possible for artificially incubated hatchlings. So, you have to transfer the baby snapping turtles from the incubator to a water source.
Here are some tips on taking care of baby snapping turtles:
- Remove the broken shells and take the baby snapping turtles out of the incubator.
- Instead of putting the baby snappers in the enclosure with the adult snappers, build a separate tank for them. ¾ of the tank should have shallow water, while the ¼ should have dry land for basking.
- As the hatchlings are only 1.5 to 2 inches long, you can keep them in a 10-to-20-gallon tank.
- You do not have to feed the hatchling for the first few days. The hatchlings come from the eggs with some of the egg sacs attached. It provides them with nutrients until they learn how to eat.
- When the egg sacs dissolve, feed your baby hatchling a balanced diet every day. Snapping turtle babies are carnivores like adult snapping turtles. You can add some vegetables to the diet. But it is better to introduce fruits later as baby snapping turtles do not have a strong digestive system.
- Remember to set up a proper enclosure for the baby snapping turtles. You should provide UV lights, heating lamps, and a high-quality water filter in the tank.
The process of breeding snapping turtles is complicated, especially for beginners. You must complete every step of the process without making any mistakes. But all your hard work will pay off once you get small baby snapping turtles swimming in a tank.
Hopefully, this article will help breeding snapping turtles successfully. But if the process seems too complicated for you, you can always ask for help from an expert snapping turtle breeder.