Often found in the eastern part of the U.S., the common snapping turtle is typically found near forest wetlands, lakes, and meadows with a sizable slow creek present.
The reptile is a voracious eater of just about anything, and its famous hard beak makes the snapping turtle both effective and dangerous to anything near its bite.
Despite its slow speed on land, the common snapping turtle is extremely fast in the water, and its head and neck can extent a short distance for a kill.
Combined with a very hard shell, claws, and webbed feet, the snapping turtle is a mobile eating machine in ponds, lakes, and near water.
Habits and Biology
Given their preference for wetlands most common snapping turtles can be located and found near freshwater bodies in nature that are generally stable and soaked, including marshes and wetlands.
They range in the territory from Canada to Texas. The turtles are active during the changing periods of day when hunger propels them the most, but an occasional turtle can be seen traveling across roads or paths during the day on occasion.
Not being the best runners on land, snapping turtles have learned to use their appearance in water-soaked land to their advantage. These reptiles will frequently dig into the mud and bury themselves so that only their sight and nose are above to be able to breathe.
Having no real natural predators, snapping turtles typically tend to be highly aggressive and blunt in their attacks once engaged.
If they face something much bigger such as a dog or a human, they may get close to investigate, but if there is a lot of disturbance in the water they tend to swim away.
Folks should generally try to keep hands and feet away from the turtle’s mouth as smaller digits might look fairly appetizing enough to bite.
Snapping turtles were discovered very early by American communities, and the reptile even became famous in political cartoons as the notable “Ograbme” pet who would snap smugglers trying to circumvent restrictions on goods going to England leading up to the War of 1812.
Note, Ograbme is embargo spelled backward.
Do Snapping Turtles Eat Dirt?
While the common snapping turtle is an omnivore, it doesn’t consume dirt per se. The reptile will eat plants, bugs, worms, fish, and even small birds, but they don’t eat mud or dirt for the sake of consuming it alone.
Most times, the dirt or mud a turtle does have in its mouth is caught up by accident with something else the turtle is actually after for food.
Because they like to hunt near brackish water, it’s common for snapping turtles to gobble a bit of muck with their dinner.
What Do Snapping Turtles Like to Eat Most
Snapping turtles’ diet will change as they reach different ages. Small, baby turtles are predominantly small consumers, going after small bits of fish, worms, small shrimp, cut bits of fruit, and bugs.
As they grow in size, so will their appetite to keep up. While growing, pellet food specifically designed for these turtles are viable options for baby snapping turtles in captivity.
These options work so well, owners usually have to watch out for the baby turtles ended up gaining weight too fast for their age. Having a complex cage or aquarium with lots of ins and outs and things the turtle has to climb around forces it to exercise, and that activity helps keep the weight down.
Naturally, snapping turtles go after just about anything smaller than them that moves. In the wild, they go after all possible targets, plant or animal, if they can get a hold of it.
That turns into some trial and error which the turtles eventually get used to figuring out, eating a few things that probably don’t go well.
In captivity, however, adult turtles will actively try to eat and catch anything in their tank, and that can include fish, worms, and even freshwater crustaceans like crayfish and shrimp.
If one has to feed a snapping turtle with a regular supply of processed pet food, then granules have long been a solid standby.
For smaller, juvenile turtle flakes also work well as they can be easily consumed. Just make sure that the pet food used is edible by turtles and not a general material designed for a different type of animal.
This type of supply cuts down on the need for prepared food, but natural food always processes easier for a pet or a human.
The advantages of processed granules come in the fact that they are prepared with just the right mixture of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals to sustain the turtle.
No surprise, they provide the lazy approach to pet care, allowing for a balanced turtle diet without having to think much about it.
Edible plants in an aquarium or cage are also a good idea.
Snapping turtles will augment their diet with green food production, regularly consuming and chewing on leaves when they can reach them.
Not every plant is edible, however. Plant choices from the Scindapsus or Monster species are ideal.
- Baby turtle food: Tetra Tetrafauna Pro ReptoMin Baby Turtle Formula Sticks
- Adult turtle food: Zilla Floating Turtle Treats
Foods to Avoid Feeding
While snapping turtles tend to be walking reptile stomachs on legs, there are certain things they should not be eating. First off, any kind of old meat or fish not eaten right away should be removed from the tank or cage. Meat tends to go bad very quickly with bacteria and can poison the turtle.
Fruit is possible to use for feeding, but it should be in small pieces and limited. Fruit tends to be high in natural sugar and too much will cause internal issues for the turtle.
If your turtle is going to have a shared environment, such as in a water tank, then the fish in it should be small and fast. Any kind of larger or slow fish are pretty much going to be eaten within a day and gone.
Bottom-dweller type fish are not a good mix either. Snapping turtles will simply wait for the fish to come right up to their nose and then snap!
It’s gone. Smaller, baby snapping turtles should not be mixed with a larger turtle either. As we noted earlier, anything small is pretty much going to be considered dinner by the bigger, older turtle.
Tips on Feeding Snapping Turtles
The typical feeding cycle for baby snapping turtles tends to be twice a day. As they get bigger the feeding cycle increases to a standard three times daily, but owners again needs to watch out for weight gain.
The physical features of the turtle give away the problem. Overweight turtles will look like their shell is too small for their size. Underweight turtles will look like their skin is hanging on them and saggy. Adjust feeding cycles and amounts to compensate either way.
Specifically, the following schedule should be followed:
1. Early-stage to 6 months
Baby snapping turtles should get fed at least twice a day with small flakes and granules augmented by bits of bloodworms.
After six months they can be fed once a day if growing too big, but generally, everything is going to grow.
Small turtles have to be fed in the water as they will have trouble swallowing on land and can choke. Feed-in them in specific sessions versus letting the food sit.
Their hunger will drive the turtles to eat as much as possible, and this will avoid food rotting in the water.
If feeding baby snapping turtles with natural food, make sure to add in a multi-vitamin supplement as well as one for calcium.
Both will help the turtle grow healthy and strong.
2. After 6 months to a year
by this point, the snapping turtle will be gaining full size and can handle large meals.
To avoid weight gain, meals can be cut back depending on the size of the animal.
The turtle should have a mix of all sorts of food types, ranging from crayfish to fish to water lettuce to hyacinth and earthworms.
The turtles will nibble on the lettuce and plants during the day and will go after the live food during feeding periods. Don’t rely on just one food type; mix it up.
Turtles will do far better and grow healthier by having a good mix. Add in a turtle feed pellet once every few days to cover any missing minerals and vitamins.
3. Older turtles
again watch out for obesity.
Turtles can get fat very quickly if they aren’t forced to go after their food and exercise.
Pellet feed is notorious for this problem because people frequently just put the pellets in a bowl in the cage and forget about it.
The turtle doesn’t and gorges itself on every pellet available. Feeding should be limited and stretch out every day or other day unless the turtle is showing signs of starving such as sagging skin.
1. Can snapping turtles live in water entirely?
Generally snapping turtles should have a mix of land and water in their cage or aquarium. The best approach is to have a rock the turtle can climb upon as well as a deeper area it can swim in, giving the reptile a mix of areas to move and exercise.
2. What happens if a feed snapping turtle only processed pet turtle food?
Nothing. Processed food is designed to be balanced with sufficient material for nutrients, protein, carbohydrates, and vitamins. Fed correctly, granules, flakes, or pellets all provide sufficient food for a snapping turtle to live on. However, make sure the pet food provide is designed specifically for a turtle and not some other animal.
3. Can a pet snapping turtle be tamed?
By their nature snapping turtles are predatory. They will become accustomed to being fed by a human, associating the human with food. However, they cannot be assumed to be domesticated in the sense of petting and holding. Snapping turtles are just as likely to go after a person’s finger as they are a fish, without any warning.
4. How do I know if my snapping turtle is too fat or not eating enough?
Just look at its body. If the turtle looks like it is stuffed into its shell, it’s too fat. If it looks like a loose leather bag, the turtle needs to eat more.
5. How long do snapping turtles live?
Taken care of properly, a snapping turtle can be expected to live approximately 30 years in the wild. In captivity, rumor has it that snapping turtles that are well taken care of could reach as much as 100 years but in reality, 50 years is the max. Of course, this could be a problem for a pet owner not expecting such longevity, so plan ahead before getting a turtle as a pet.
6. Can snapping turtles mix with other turtles?
Not likely. Being bigger, snapping turtles may very well go after smaller species as dinner.
7. What should I do if I get bit?
The wrong thing to do is pull away; it just makes the turtle clamp down more. The better thing to do is put the turtle in the water, and it will likely release faster.
8. Are snapping turtles banned in some states?
Not really. Turtles are common house pets and are allowed in all 50 states, but they live best in temperate to warm areas.
9. Can snapping turtles live together?
It may be possible to have two adults in the same very large cage or aquarium, but there needs to be enough food on a regular basis. They won’t mingle; snapping turtles tend to be solitary in nature.
10. Are there any fish snapping turtles won’t eat?
Nope. Anything swimming that gets near their mouth will end up as dinner.