Snapping Turtle, Chelydra serpentina
If you see one of these large turtles, don’t get too close! They are fun to watch, but they’re called snapping turtles for a reason. Strong claws and beaks allow them to hunt and eat small animals — and may be snapped on human body parts if given the chance!
The common snapping turtle is the largest of all turtle residents in Wisconsin’s lakes, ponds, and rivers. On average, they weigh in at about 13 pounds with a shell length of about 11 inches, although they continue to grow far into their adult years — up to 30 years in the wild! Snappers can be classified as an opportunistic omnivore, meaning they will eat anything they can get their beak on. Typically, however, it snacks on plants, insects, small fish, and sometimes birds. Once they reach a certain size, there are few natural predators of snapping turtles.
Human activity causes turtles’ wetland habitats to dry up, forcing these animals to find new homes in unlikely places, such as ditches and even sewers. The snapping turtle does not mind water polluted with fertilizers, because this run-off can increase vegetation. But they, along with many other wetland critters, are becoming increasingly vulnerable because of habitat loss due to climate change.
Like other turtles, the snapping turtle’s offspring depends heavily on the temperature around the eggs, with females generally occurring above 84ºF and males below 80ºF — only in temperatures between this range will a proper mix of males and females hatch. As climate change brings warmer average temperatures, more females will be born, making it hard for the species to reproduce. Even the smallest warming could spell potential extinction for this species. Turtles are one of the oldest reptile groups, more ancient than snakes or crocodiles — do you think they will be able to adapt quickly enough to the new climates of the future?