Turtles: No Snapping Matter

by Keri K. on September 2, 2010

I am unfriendly.

It's said snappers have a bite pressure of 1,000 lbs!

I recently blogged about the potential dangers of wildlife to your pets, and how to minimize them. Just after I wrote that, we had a run-in with an animal I didn’t mention the first time around: a snapper!

If you live near a body of freshwater in the US, you probably have some subspecies of the Snapping Turtle around (ours is the “Northern” snapping turtle, Chelydra serpentina serpentina). They’re the largest turtles we have here, characterized by their rugged build, powerful jaws, and most noticeably, nasty temper.

Our few acres of land border a small pond, and a large lake is only a couple hundred yards away. We get lots of creatures traveling back and forth, like otters and other more friendly turtles. This hefty guy (or gal) was waiting for us on the paved road just in front of our driveway when we returned from a walk, pointed in the direction of the pond.

The best way to interact with a snapping turtle is always from a distance! I ran Mojito up to the house, because a snapper of this size could do him some serious damage, and I certainly didn’t trust Mo to stay safely out of range. Then I brought down a shovel, which is the easiest tool we’ve found to move an angry turtle capable of severing your fingers and breaking a dog’s leg.

Turtle removal service

Turtle relocation

It didn’t appreciate our helpful efforts, naturally, but after some gape-jawed hissing from the turtle, my husband managed to scoop it up from behind and quickly carry it to the side of the road. I’ve read that the safe way to pick them up is by the front and back of the top carapace, right above the head and tail, but I personally would NOT get that close! They have long necks that can stretch surprisingly far, and lunge faster than any turtle on land has a right to move. They also have huge, sharp claws for digging, so picking them up also carries the risk of getting torn by flailing turtle feet.

Snapping turtles are also known to travel long distances from water, so even if you’re not that near to a lake or stream, it’s a good idea to be able to recognize a snapper when you meet one. Don’t let your dog approach one, even for a quick sniff! You can also contact local wildlife management to move a snapper you think is in danger, or is endangering you.
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Keri is a lead catalog designer for Drs. Foster and Smith and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from UW-Stout. She shares a small home with her husband, two Chinese Crested dogs, two cats, two ferrets, several reptiles and amphibians, and 30-some gallons of freshwater planted aquariums. See more articles by Keri K.

{ 2 trackbacks }

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Rosemary September 2, 2010 at 8:51 am

Down here in the gulf coast area of Texas, we not only have alligator snapping turtles, we also have the real alligators. There was actually a show on one of the country music cable channels about a man who runs an alligator farm and rescue in our area. Fortunately, I have encountered neither species on our walks, although several people found alligators in their pools earlier this year.

Keri K. September 2, 2010 at 10:24 am

I am glad we don’t have to contend with either of those here, Rosemary! I haven’t heard any stories of a snapping turtle in a pool, either, although I seem to remember a deer falling in one. I think I’d rather find a snapper, since supposedly they’re very docile in the water, and deer are not always the sweet creatures most people think…

mariodacat September 6, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Last summer when camping with a lot of friends, one of the doggies got nipped by a turtle (probably not snapping kind cuz I don’t know if we has any in WI. But doggie ended up with an owie & had to go to vet. He attempted to sniff before owner could clearly see what he was sniffing. Good article.

Keri K. September 7, 2010 at 8:15 am

It very well could have been a snapping turtle, Mario… We live in Wisconsin too. An encounter with a painted turtle or map turtle is usually more dangerous to the turtle than the dog, so meeting a snapper can be a very unpleasant surprise!

David P.......... July 25, 2015 at 12:48 pm

I have been living in Michigan for 2 years. I am a native Californian. Several weeks ago, I was driving to Grand Blanc and noticed a large turtle in the middle of the road. I pulled over and walked up to it and started to pick it up to move it to the side of the road. Well someone else stopped and warned me that it could be a snapping turtle. It had a long tail and sure enough, it started to hiss and the next thing he begain to snap. It happened so fast and I jumped back quickly. We finally captured it with a empty garbage can and carried him or her to a lake about 100 yards from where it was spotted .. I am now a believer of how dangerous they can actually be. Yes!!!!!! There is snapping turtles in Michigan..

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