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We had a snapping turtle around our pond last year. Will he snap at us if we try to go swimming? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: We had a snapping turtle around our pond last year. Will he snap at us if we try to go swimming?

Q: We had a snapping turtle around our pond last year. Will he snap at us if we try to go swimming?

Greg – Chester, VT

A: Snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina) are large freshwater turtles that make their homes in ponds and streams with plenty of room and food. When encountered in the water, they typically slip quietly away from any disturbance – but because they can have fierce dispositions, it’s a good idea to get to know these shelled reptiles and their habits a little better.

C. serpentina has a look all its own. Resembling a prehistoric dinosaur, the snapping turtle has a large, muscular build with a ridged carapace (hard shell) that can grow up to 18 inches. They usually weigh between 10 to 35 pounds. Its most defining features, however, are its long, flexible neck and beak-like mouth that it uses to snap prey and defend itself from predators.

On the Menu
The omnivore’s preferred meals include just about anything it can capture and swallow, including aquatic plants, invertebrates, fish, frogs, reptiles, birds and small mammals. It’ll even eat carrion. In a farm or swimming pond, a snapping turtle might snap up some undesirable visitors, like snakes.

Night Life
A snapping turtle is mostly active at night, but it does venture out during the day to bask on fallen logs and scavenge and hunt for food. When C. serpentina is walking the terra firma, it can be aggressive, particularly when it feels threatened – and this is when you should avoid contact at all costs. A snap from a snapping turtle can be painful!

Remove and Relocate
If a snapping turtle is causing problems in your pond, your best bet is to safely and humanely remove it. Grabbing its shell with your hands is a bad idea; it can easily stretch its neck back across its own shell to its hind feet and snap your fingers, and it can scratch you with its sharp claws.

Instead, trap it in a turtle trap, like one of our Tomahawk Live Traps. The 32-by-18-by-9-inch trap made with 12-gauge wire comes pre-assembled and ready to use. Simply place it in the water partially submerged and bait with fish or meat. When you capture the critter, relocate it to a place that has a water body, food and shelter.

Pond Talk: What types of game fish do you have in your pond or lake?

Trap Unwanted Guests - Tomahawk Turtle Trap

I’ve heard a lot about snapping turtles. Are they good for a pond or should just remove them? – Ponds & Lakes Q & A

I’ve heard a lot about snapping turtles. Are they good for a pond or should just remove them?

I’ve heard a lot about snapping turtles. Are they good for a pond or should just remove them? George – Duck, NC

Ponds tend to attract all types of creatures to your yard, some more desirable than others. With their large claws and strong jaws, snapping turtles may make the list of animals you don’t want in your pond. It all really boils down to why you dug your pond in the first place and how you spend your time enjoying it.

The snapping turtle is the largest turtle in the United States, living 30 years on average, their shells growing to around 15 inches, and normally reaching weights of 10 to 35 pounds. The largest common snapping turtle on record being nearly 20 inches long and weighing 86 pounds. It is believed some species of snapping turtles can live up to 150 years with some reports of snappers have been found with musket rounds lodged inside them from the American Civil War.

Snapping turtles tend to inhabit the shallow areas of your pond and will feed off of both plants and animals limited only to what they can fit in their mouths. If you have prized fish or encourage Geese and Ducks to raise hatchlings in your pond you may find snapping turtles to be a major inconvenience. These turtles rarely surface in the pond to bask in the sun and instead are commonly found buried at the bottom of the pond with only their head exposed. Because they are too big to actually hide inside their shell the snapping turtle relies on his sharp beak-like mouth for protection. Their neck is extremely flexible and is able to reach over their shells to protect their hind legs and tail. While their size and power may be intimidating they are not usually aggressive in the water. Rather than attack and bite potential threats they prefer to swim away and hide. That being said, there is no guarantee that you won’t accidentally provoke one of these snappers. If you swim in your pond you may not want to keep the snappers around.

If you have a natural pond and have no intentions of swimming or any special attachment to particular fish or frogs in the water there is no reason why these turtles can’t be a part of the scenery. They can help balance fish populations and are absolutely amazing to look at if you can spot a large one moving around your pond. If you decide that they need to find a new home you can remove them by installing a Turtle Trap. You can bait the trap with fish or meat from your home and place the trap in the shallow areas of your pond. You don’t want the turtle to drown so keep the top of the cage exposed and out of the water. When you catch a turtle be sure to use thick working gloves to protect your hands from potential bites or scratches. Pull the cage from the pond and transport the turtle to another location. As they are known to travel far distances over land you will want to relocate them a few miles away from your pond or they may find their way back. Never try to catch snapping turtles using hooks as they tend to swallow food whole. If they ingest a hook you will be unable to remove it and possibly injure the turtle.

POND TALK: Did you find snapping turtles in your pond? Do you love them or hate them and why?

Keep those fish safe from predators!


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