Snapping turtles are one kind of predator turtles that are commonly found in parts of the Southwestern Rocky Mountains, Southeastern Canada, Gulf of Mexico, and the whole strip leading to Ecuador. They belong to Chelydridae family of reptiles. These turtles are also popularly known as snappers, with their conspicuous features of beak-like jaws, a mobile neck and head, and a saw-toothed tail. Their top shell length is about 8-12 inches long and they weigh as much as 35 pounds. One of the interesting snapper turtle facts is that unlike other turtles, they cannot retract their head into their shell. They are also aggressive predators who can snap at the prey if intimidated.
These nocturnal turtles are usually colored in shades of green or brown. They mostly prefer to stay in water. Their life span is about 30 years, but if bred in captivity, can go up to 47 years as well. Apart from the common snapping turtles, there is yet another kind, alligator snapping turtles (Macrochelys temminckii), which happen to be the largest of the species and are found in the Gulf of Mexico.
Gestation Period of the Eggs
A snapping turtle habitat is anywhere around a permanent freshwater source, which include lakes, ponds, marshes, etc. They bury themselves in shallow water and their body color often merges with the surroundings, giving them the time and chance to ambush their prey. They are of the omnivorous kind. Snapper turtle food mainly comprises fish, toads, snakes, birds, and carrion. Being coldblooded, these turtles bask on the water surface and hibernate during winter. Mating season happens to be in early summer.
A male turtle matures at 3-5 years and a female at 4-6 years. They usually breed in water, but for laying eggs, they come to land. Females make nesting areas about 16 kms away from the water body. In one go, the female lays about 20-30 eggs in the nesting site, which is a kind of burrow in moist soil, about 4-7 inches deep. The eggs are shelled and about an inch in diameter. They resemble small golf balls. Once the eggs are laid, the female returns to her home in the water. The gestation period of these eggs is about 2-3 months.
The eggs, if laid in summer, start to hatch in late fall, after a gestation period of 2-3 months. In case the eggs are laid late in the season, they may not hatch until early spring. The ideal temperature for their incubation is about 72-82 degrees F. It has been observed that the eggs have a probability of producing more females if the incubation temperature exceeds this range. Once the eggs hatch, the hatchlings come out and grow quite fast. A juvenile snapping turtle grows about 6 inches long within a year. These hatchlings immediately head towards the water body and prey on snakes, bullfrogs, herons, and raccoon.
Once the snapper hatchlings mature into adults, their tolerance to appetite increases. Some of the adults do not hunt every now and then for prey. However, when they are small, they continue to predate more. Although this species appears grotesque and self-asserting, snapper turtle eggs make delectable dishes and are much sought after. Hence in Dakota, where snapping turtles make a scrumptious meal, a fishing license is mandated for hunting them. They are used in making stews and soups. Besides, one can also tame these aquatic turtles as pets. These exotic pets are quite delightful to have, as their basic temperament is shy, though they may show signs of heightened aggression only when intimidated. People breed them in fish tanks and aquariums, but proper care is equally important. One has to keep a time slot to check if the turtle is fine, whether it is eating or not, clean up the waste, and so on.
Snapping turtles play an important role in the ecological balance of aquatic life. Since their staple food comprises amphibians and other invertebrate species, they are more susceptible to pollution and contaminated water. Hence, it is important to maintain the quality of the wetlands where they reside. Also, poaching them for any purpose other than for personal consumption is strictly prohibited. In Dakota, the possession limit for these turtles is about 4. So, hope you have understood the significance of these snapping turtles. After all, every living creature has a stellar role to play in sustaining life on Earth.