Snapping turtles (family Chelydridae
) are large, with a large head and long tail. They are most active at night. If disturbed, they release a foul smelling musk. They get their name from their fast, strong bite.
The Florida Snapping Turtle
, Chelydra serpentina osceola
, is found in ponds and lakes with muddy bottoms and lots of vegetation throughout the peninsula. It has a knobby shell, a hooked beak, and three sawtoothed ridges running down the top of its tail. It reaches a maximum size of 18" and 35 pounds. It is an aggressive predator, eating a wide variety of wildlife. On land, Florida Snappers will try to bite if approached.
The Common Snapping Turtle
, Chelydra serpentina serpentina
, is found in fresh water bodies throughout the panhandle. It has a gray brown to brown shell with either low bumps or a jagged hind edge. The head, legs, and tail are the same color as the shell. It may grow to 18.5" long and weigh 45 pounds. It is carnivorous and scavenges the bottom for food.
** PROTECTED **
The Alligator Snapping Turtle
, Macroclemys temmincki
, is found in rivers and large streams in the panhandle. It is one of the largest freshwater turtles in the world, reaching a maximum size of 28" and weighing over 200 pounds. It has a very large head and prominent ridges (looking much like rows of mountains) along its dark brown shell.
Younger Alligator Snappers fish during the day by wiggling a red wormlike growth on their tongues and then snapping up the fish it attracts. At night, they feed on vegetation, snails, mussels and smaller turtles.
The Alligator Snapper can easily sever human fingers with one bite. It isn't aggressive though, so give it a wide berth and don't attempt to handle one.
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