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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

6 Responses

  1. […] We had a snapping turtle around our pond last year. Will he snap at us if we try to go swimming? | P… (thepondguy.com) […]

  2. Hi fellow ponders,

    I have two snapping turtles, over 40 years old – very huge, whom have lived in my natural, 1/4 acre pond for all their lives as far as we know. The show up June 15 every year and eat fish food pellets alongside all of my Koi, albino catfish, black catfish, and tiny bluegills. I’ve yet to ever see them eat a fish, even when one is in front of their mouths – and virtually all of my fish are accounted for each year. I’ve been at this for 12 years with this pond. The pair (politely named Mr. and Mrs. Turtle) come to pondside and look up at me while feeding. (No I don’t get close enough!) However, I will say it’s been interesting to see snappers cooing at me, stopping by to visit – even when not eating, and following me around as I walk the pond. I treat them with respect and dignity, and they return the same to me and other pond inhabitants. I’m not saying they don’t eat the occasional frog, but I venture to guess that my giant albino catfish snatch up any fish eggs long before the turtles ever get a grip.
    They are very cool creatures in their own right. Anything having made it from the dinosaur era has my vote to stay and be enjoyed. I’m not in favor of killing ANY animal that is just doing it’s natural thing. I’m especially opposed to turtle soup and the massively torturous methods people use causing a slow, horribly painful death.
    If you can get to know them more through feeding fish food, they are a great addition to an ecosystem. I love Mr & Mrs Turtle and their photos are all over my Facebook page. People ask about them and want to see them in videos, and just naturally. I look forward to June 15 when like clockwork, their sandy shells arise from their sleep.
    Don’t be too quick to rid yourself of them — give em a chance.

    • I too have a Mr. and Mrs. Snapping Turtles that come to visit and feed when I’m feeding the bluegills and grass carp. They will peek their heads out to say hello and then wait for me to toss them food. Sometimes they just say hello and aren’t hungry. They will actually hear me coming in my little vehicle and surface…and see if I’m sitting on the bench. And when they do see me, they swim over!

  3. Then, there is another form of removal that is permanent and creates no problems for anyone else: http://www.newbernsj.com/sports/local/outdoor-column-making-snapping-turtle-soup-1.340823

  4. Should you decide to really get rid of it, careful where he is when you shoot your 22….I have two holes at the waterline that required patches! Water snakes are much more difficult, and just as ugly!

  5. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not relocate problem turtles (or other animals) to wild areas (or parks!!). It just creates more problems (for others). Find a rescue group, shelter or sanctuary that handles such animals. There are many on line. They may even help with capture.

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