Common Snapping Turtle

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Common Snapping Turtle
Chelydra serpentina
Conservation Concerns

At a Glance

The common snapping turtle is noted for its combative disposition when out of the water with its powerful beak-like jaws, and highly mobile head and neck (hence the specific epithet serpentina, meaning "snake-like"). In water, it is likely to flee and hide underwater in sediment. The common snapping turtle has a life-history strategy characterized by high and variable mortality of embryos and hatchlings, delayed sexual maturity, extended adult longevity, and iteroparity (repeated reproductive events) with low reproductive success per reproductive event.

Range & Identification

Common habitats are shallow ponds or streams. Some may inhabit brackish environments, such as estuaries. These sources of water tend to have an abundance of aquatic vegetation due to the shallow pools.[9] Common snapping turtles sometimes bask—though rarely observed—by floating on the surface with only their carapaces exposed, though in the northern parts of their range, they also readily bask on fallen logs in early spring. In shallow waters, common snapping turtles may lie beneath a muddy bottom with only their heads exposed, stretching their long necks to the surface for an occasional breath. Their nostrils are positioned on the very tip of the snout, effectively functioning as snorkels.

Conservation Concerns

Although common snapping turtles are listed as a species of least concern, anthropogenic factors still may have major effects on populations. Decades of road mortality may cause severe population decline in common snapping turtle populations present in urbanized wetlands. A study in southwestern Ontario monitored a population near a busy roadway and found a loss of 764 individuals in only 17 years. The population decreased from 941 individuals in 1985 to 177 individuals in 2002. Road mortality may put common snapping turtle populations at risk of extirpation. Exclusion fencing could aid in decreasing population loss.

Related Species

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