Michigan’s Common Snapping Turtle

Female Snapping Turtle

Female Snapping Turtle, photo by MTU_Flickr.

Regular readers may recall TurtleGate ’08. Some of you may have even been consumed by worry that this terrapin tangle would go unresolved. Fear not, for thanks to a happy find while researching the Seney National Wildlife Refuge, I can finally put the michpics universe back on firm & factual footing.

MTU Flickr says that this little lady was looking for a good place to lay some eggs in the Seney Wildlife Refuge during sunset. It’s part of their excellent Nature Made set, a collection of photos “mostly set in the Upper Peninsula” that should probably be viewed as a slideshow.

The common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) and probably (other than the elusive cougar), the Michigan animal you most want to be wary of. From the U of M Animal Diversity Web’s page on the common snapping turtle:

Snapping turtles are not social creatures. Social interactions are limited to aggressive interactions between individuals, usually males. Many individuals can be found within a small range; snapping turtle density is normally related to the amount of available food. Snapping turtles can be very vicious when removed from the water, but they become docile when placed back into the water. Snapping turtles sometimes bury themselves in mud with only their nostrils and eyes exposed. This burying behavior is used as a means of ambushing prey.

Snapping turtles will eat nearly anything that they can get their jaws around. They feed on carrion, invertebrates, fish, birds, small mammals, amphibians, and a surprisingly large amount of aquatic vegetation. Snapping turtles kill other turtles by decapitation. This behavior might be territoriality towards other turtles or a very inefficient feeding behavior.

You can read much more about these agressive amphibians from the link above and also the Michigan DNR and Wikipedia. Also check out this video of a common snapper attacking a camera to get an idea of how fast they can move if they want to!

You may want to go back and read the other post too as it now has information about the wood turtle in Michigan.

14 thoughts on “Michigan’s Common Snapping Turtle

  1. I really dont think snapping turtles are really all the dangeress! pEOPLE SAY THEY CAN BITE A FINGER OFF BUT THEY ARE JUST TURTLES! Dont mess with them and they wont mess with you!


  2. almost all of the time if you encounter a snapping turtle in the water they will swim away from you very quickly. they are also know to have come up to people and bump them with there nose. and never pull one by its tail you can severely injure them.


  3. we’ve had a snapper (we named it nessie) live in our pond for going on 4 years. as we walk around the pond, it follows us, awaiting a hot dog or two. it loves to take a shower when we run the garden hose in the pond, getting as close as it can to the fast running water.


  4. I found a newly hatched snapper on my door step back in late Sept. I assumed it was dropped by a bird, although we live along the river and have acres of flood plain…we will never know where it originated, however we gave it food and water but the turtle was interested in either one and headed north. That evening at 1 am I was outside shutting off garden lights when guess who decided to return…the little snapper. I have her in a 10 gal. Aquarium and she loves it. I don’t understand how these little creatures can hatch so late in the year in Battle Creek, Mi. And survive our cold winters? My only intention is to care for it until its able to care for itself, at which time we will release it.


    1. Very cool Cindy. Can you email me a picture or upload it to our Absolute Michigan pool on Flickr or our Michigan in Pictures Facebook ?

      I also asked to see if any herpetologists (reptile experts) had some tips for you.

      Turtles will dig themselves into the muck and freeze the winter away. I’ll post something on Michigan in Pictures about it soon!

      Thanks for being a reader of Michigan in Pictures!



  5. I just had my first encounter with clearing one off a roadway. I didn’t know it was a snapper until I started to approach. It was pretty aggressive. fortunately, another motorist stopped and we were able to move it back toward the creek. I was surprised at how aggressive it was but I might be aggressive too if cars were whizzing all around me!


  6. We had a Mother Snapping Turtle lay her eggs on our property last June. My husband put chicken fence around the area so predators would not dig them up and eat them. We watched the nest till the end of summer and nothing ever came out of the nest. We did not know what to think. Then after our freezing cold Winter we were sure they would not make it. A few days ago we were out looking at our small pond and there on the ground was a baby Snapping Turtle. We were so excited we showed him/her to all the neighbors whom have also been waiting for them to be born. We took the baby down to the large pond at the end of our road where we also took the mom when she was done laying her eggs. Now we have been watching for the rest of the babies but we have seen NONE! There is only one hole out of the ground at the nest site. Does anyone know do they all exit the nest from the same hole? Do they all hatch in the same time frame? Like within a couple days or do the hatch days from each other? We would like to make sure they all get to safety at the big pond down the road so they do not get killed trying to get there. We could use some more information if any one knows more of the habits of the Michigan Snapping Turtles. Thank you!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s