Snapping Turtle ~ Chelydra serpentina

Common snapping turtles have a long neck and a long tail with sawtooth projections on the upper surface. They also have a large head with a strong beak instead of teeth. The edges of the jaws have sharp edges to rip apart food. I think their cute beaks look like piggy noses. =@)

They like to live in any body of water. They especially like shallow, mud-bottomed backwaters and ponds with lush aquatic vegetation. Exaaaaactly where we were walking the boys near Illinois State Beach Park.

April through July, is their mating season, which generally takes place on land, resulting in Mama turtle laying 20-50 eggs in a shallow clutch. Just like sea turtles, the hatchlings just know where the water is, and head for its safety.

They only seeking to escape when approached by humans in the water and are of little threat to swimmers. However, they are aggressive and menacing when on land. If you see one on the road and want to help it across… Be Careful! Watch the video below to educate yourself on how to safely pick up a snapper!

Vegetation is their main food source, however they also eat fish, snakes, and crustaceans. The turtle actually ‘inhales’ its food by using a strong suction created from its buccal cavity. They extend their necks to create a negative pressure and the prey is sucked into their mouth and down their throats! Now that’s how you gulp food! HaHa =-)

Snapping turtle’s heads are too large to pull all the way into their shell, so they have learned how to use that powerful jaw as defense and snap at their enemies. The hard beak on their jaw is attached to adductor muscles that are situated at an angle to the trochlear to create an enormous force. These guys are strong enough to remove a finger! Yikes.

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Isn’t she* cute?!?

As there were many (100’s!)  leopard frogs leaping as we approached them, we were constantly looking down, hoping to avoid stepping on the ‘lil guys. Oreo stepped on one, however he seemed unphased and hopped off. Whew. So, while looking up to enjoy the landscape and down to avoid the hoppers, we got pretty close to this little lady before noticing her on the trail.

The trail is narrow, and both sides turn into swampy, muck pretty quickly, so no deviation off the trail is possible. We weren’t turning around either. We neared her, hoping she would just scurry away. Nope. Is she dead?? I inch closer…. Waiting for movement. Oh! She blinked! OK, now what? Us humans can jump over her, but the boys? I kept myself between Oreo and her and he virtually ignored her. So did Breck. That’s a Border Collie for ya… No movement, no fun! Thus, I have no cool ending to my post. The End =-)

Here’s a helpful video to learn how to help a turtle across the road!

*Sometimes I don’t know the sex of an animal and just assign it one, as I don’t like referring animals as ‘it’s.
© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

23 thoughts on “Snapping Turtle ~ Chelydra serpentina

  1. I was thinking, “How cute” till I read they can bite your finger clean off! 🙂
    And I can’t help feeling sorry for the turtle in the video, who was “helped” across the road again and again! 🙂 Still if he helps save other turtles, it was worth it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Those things grow huge in Oklahoma. When we lived there, we came across one trying to cross a busy road. The kids were little and they insisted I get our of the car and carry it across the road. I almost lost a finger or two in the attempt. I finally grabbed a stick, enticed the critter to chomp down on it, and dragged it to the creek on the other side of the road.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’ve never seen one of these cute turtles, and now I definitely know they are not as friendly as they may seem! Maybe they appear so calm because they know that you’re the one that’s going to lose a finger if you get close enough 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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