snapping turtle care sheet

Snapping Turtle Care Sheet

Common snapping turtle a.k.a Chelydra serpentina

snapping turtle care

Intro to Snapping Turtles

Common snapping turtles are an iconic animal that has remained a popular pet for decades. Despite what their popularity suggests, they do not make the greatest pets for most people. This is a large species of turtle reaching shell lengths over 15 inches and can live over 100 years. They are known for being aggressive and are not the best community turtle. Despite their unruly disposition, they have a very prehistoric appearance that many people find to be interesting. They have raised scutes over their shell, a long tail that looks like one of a dragon’s, and a very long neck covered in small bumps called tubercles.  There is also a subspecies endemic to Florida that has a more rugged look. Common snappers are found throughout North America, inhabiting slow moving waterways such as swamps and creeks. These turtles are also known for their bite, hence the name “snapping turtle”. Their necks can extend up to 12 inches when fully grown and are very quick to shoot it out to catch prey or defend themselves. 

caring for snapping turtle

Snapping Turtle Care

Snapping turtles are omnivores but primarily eat protein. Fish, crustaceans, small rodents, and pellets are great sources of food in captivity. They can be fed at least 3 times a week. Enclosure size will vary throughout the turtle’s life. Babies can be kept in a 20 gallon aquarium for the first 2 to 3 years and should be upgraded to 10 gallons per inch of shell length. Keep the water level low for babies, no more than finger length depth. Adult snapping turtles are best housed in large stock tanks or kiddie pools, and do very well outdoors given proper enclosure and safety measures are met. These turtles rarely bask, but a small area where they can completely dry off if needed should be available. Offer underwater barriers such as plants, rocks, and wood to allow the turtles to hide and feel secure. Snappers tolerate a variety of climates due to their large range but general basking temperature should sit in the mid 90s with room temperature water. UVB light should be provided if housed indoors to prevent vitamin deficiency and stunted growth. Adult turtles can tolerate temperatures as low as 40 degrees outdoors.

how to care for snapping turtles

Snapping Turtles For Sale in the Pet Trade

The most difficult part of keeping snapping turtles is dealing with their size. Although they do not move as much as other species, these are large turtles that require space to thrive under our care. They tend to be cheap up front but end up becoming an expensive investment many people do not want to deal with, and because of that, are often let go after they grow too big. It should never be the plan to release a pet when it no longer is deemed practical. As responsible pet keepers it is imperative to research the animals we care for and keep animals that can be maintained within our means. If the size of snapping turtles is not something you can maintain long term, there are plenty of alternatives. Mud and musk turtles are a great alternative for example. Most species stay smaller than 8 inches fully grown, and exhibit many similar behaviors snapping turtles do.



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