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Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)

Snapping Turtle Photo © Charles H. Warren, courtesy of life.nbii.gov

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: View a map showing the towns where this species is reported to occur in NH PDF Document

 

More Information: Read about the Snapping turtle PDF Document in NH Wildlife Journal magazine.

 

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.

 

Snapping Turtle

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

Snapping Turtle

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

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Snapping Turtle

Hatchling snapping turtle crossing a road.
Photo © Mike Marchand

Snapping Turtle

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

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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. Photo © Mike Marchand