Snapping Turtle

(Chelydra serpentina)

Snapping turtle

Snapping turtles can be easily distinguished from other species because of their large size, massive head, and long tail. Turtles are vulnerable while on land, especially when road crossings are necessary. Unlike many other turtles, snapping turtles can’t pull their head and limbs completely inside their protective shell. Therefore, when encountered on land, snapping turtles may react defensively and snap their powerful jaws. While in aquatic habitats, snapping turtles usually go undetected and can escape without the necessity of a defensive snap.┬ęCharles H. Warren, courtesy of

Female snapping turtle

Adult female snapping turtles must leave aquatic habitats in search of sites to lay eggs. © Francine Geissler Photo

Snapping turtle laying eggs

Snapping turtles dig holes with their rear limbs in which they lay 20-40 ping-pong sized eggs. © Mike Marchand Photo

Mike Marchand holding a large snapping turtle

Snapping turtles are long-lived and are known to live in some habitats that may have excessive nutrient loads or pollutants. As a result, snapping turtles are likely to accumulate large levels of toxins within their body tissues. © Mike Marchand Photo

Hatchling snapping turtle
Hatchling snapping turtle crossing a road. © Mike Marchand Photo
Snapping turtle habitat
Snapping turtles can be found in a variety of wetland and aquatic habitats including marshes, swamps, fens, rivers, lakes, ponds, and vernal pools. © Mike Marchand Photo

NH Conservation Status: Not listed

State Rank Status: Widespread and secure.

Distribution: Throughout state, less common in northern New Hampshire.

Description:A large turtle measuring 8-14 inches and weighing up to 70 pounds. A rough carapace ranges in color form black to light brown. The head is large and the tail is long with a distinct saw-toothed edge.

Commonly Confused Species: Juveniles may be confused with musk turtles and wood turtles.

Habitat: Any permanent water body such as lakes, ponds, swamps, bogs, streams, and rivers, especially aquatic habitats with muddy bottoms and abundant submerged logs and aquatic vegetation. Use terrestrial habitats while searching for appropriate nesting sites and traveling among wetland habitats.

Life History: Lays 20-40 eggs in soil banks or sand and gravel piles in fields or lawns and may be several hundred feet or more from water. Hibernates in mud bottom or under logs or other submerged debris, sometimes communally.

Conservation Threats: Water pollution, road mortality, habitat loss.

Distribution map: Click here for a map showing the towns where this species is reported to occur in NH

NEW! Snapping turtle (PDF) from NH Wildlife Journal magazine.

Go to Eastern Painted TurtleBack to Turtles of NHGo to Spotted Turtle


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