Snapping turtles are one of the largest freshwater turtle species in North America. They have a striking look and can bite quite hard. They can grow huge, from 8 to 30 inches! You probably have seen a snapping turtle in a large tank. But where do snapping turtles live in the wild?
Snapping turtles live in most parts of North America. They are found in various aquatic habitats, such as freshwater ponds, rivers, and lakes. Snapping turtles are freshwater aquatic turtles, but they can tolerate brackish water.
In this article, I will talk about where Common snapping turtles and Alligator snapping turtles live in the wild. So, continue reading to learn more about these unique species of turtles.
Where Do Common Snapping Turtles Live?
By snapping turtles, most people understand the Common snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina). They are found in many parts of North America.
More specifically, they live in fresh and brackish water bodies ranging from the eastern United States and southern Canada to northern Mexico. you can also see Common snapping turtles in the central and western United States.
Common snapping turtles live in a wide range of freshwater habitats in the mentioned locations. You may see snapping turtles in ponds, marshes, swamps, rivers, and lakes. Snapping turtles prefer soft muddy, or sandy bottoms where they can bury themselves. They roam in shallow water to get their head out of the water easily and breathe in air.
Common snapping turtles spend most of their time in the water. They partially stay in the water even when they bask under the sun.
The condition of the habitats of snapping turtles affects their appearance and habits. Adult Common turtles can be 8 to 18 inches long. Their size and menacing look prevent many predators from attacking them.
Snapping turtles have powerful jaws that they use for hunting and fighting threats. They prey on animals, insects, and plants that are smaller than them. Most of their diet consists of fish, frogs, insects, crayfish, small turtles, small mammals, and even snakes.
Where Do Alligator Snapping Turtles Live?
Alligator snapping turtles or “gator snappers” are distant cousins of Common snapping turtles. They are found in much more limited geographical locations in the United States.
Alligator snapping turtles live in the southeast United States, the Mississippi River basin, and the Gulf Coast. Like Common snapping turtles, Alligators snappers are also freshwater aquatic turtles. They need larger freshwater habitats, such as large rivers, swamps, bayous, and oxbow rivers.
Like common snapping turtles, Alligator snapping turtles prefer slow-moving water with a soft bottom. They live in areas covered in vegetation that provide them with food and shelter from prying eyes.
Alligator snapping turtles have a similar diet to Common snapping turtles. They are primarily carnivores. Thus, they mostly eat fish and other small size animals. They also eat some aquatic plants in and around their habitat.
Alligator snapping turtles have great appetites. Since they eat a lot, they can become massive. An adult Alligator snapper can reach up to 29 inches! Therefore, they live in larger habitats compared to Common snappers.
Do Snapping Turtles Ever Live Their Habitat?
Snapping turtles are aquatic reptiles and spend most of their time in the water. Even if they sometimes come out of the water, they only venture a little far from their habitats.
However, there are some reasons snapping turtles may leave their habitats for longer. Here are some of these reasons:
Male snapping turtles rarely leave their habitats. But female snapping turtles leave the water searching for suitable land to lay their eggs. They usually lay eggs near their habitats. If they don’t find the right spot nearby, they travel a long distance from their habitat. After laying the eggs, the turtles always return to their aquatic habitat.
2. Searching Food
A snapping turtle may come out of its habitat if food is scarce. Snapping turtles need to have plenty of food to stay healthy. When there is a lack of food in their habitat, they can leave their current habitat for a new one. For that, they can travel a long distance.
3. Habitat Problem
Sometimes, snapping turtles leave their habitat when the water is no longer suitable. The water may dry up or get polluted. Snapping turtles may also flee their habitat if they face problems related to predators.
4. Human Activities
Many people don’t want snapping turtles around their property. Also, some people hunt snapping turtles and eat them. Over-harvesting snapping turtles is one of the main reasons for the decreasing number of this species. Snapping turtles can be disturbed by human activities and be forced to leave a habitat.
5. Climate Change
Snapping turtles need a specific water temperature to live in their habitat. Because of climate change, the water temperature can change, affecting a snapping turtle’s health. As a result, the turtles have to leave for suitable habitats.
Recently, both natural and human activities have been disrupting the life of snapping turtles in the wild. Many water bodies’ water conditions are changing, and snapping turtles are forced to leave their habitats. As a result, the species have now become endangered.
Before You Go
As you can see, snapping turtles can live in most freshwater sources in the United States. What if you want to swim in a pond, river, or lake where you might encounter a snapping turtle? Read the following article to learn how to swim in water with snapping turtles.