AUBURN, Ala. – The common snapping turtle found throughout Alabama and the Southeast, is one of the larger freshwater turtle species in North America. Snapping turtles’ shells can reach up to 18 inches in length and the turtles can weigh more than 40 pounds. Snapping turtles reach maturity at 10 to 13 years and can have a life span of more than 40 years.
Norman Haley, an Alabama Extension regional agent in wildlife and natural resource management, said people can harvest snapping turtles but only for personal use.
“Two turtles may be harvested daily for personal use, however, commercial sale of snapping turtles is prohibited,” said Haley. “Alligator snapping turtles, which are similar in appearance to the common snapping turtle are listed as a species of conservation concern and are protected in Alabama.”
Snapping turtles are found in lakes, ponds, rivers and swamps. In the spring, females locate throughout the landscape searching for nesting areas away from the water’s edge. Snapping turtles can lay 20 to 40 eggs per nest. Haley said that hatching time and the sex of the turtles depends upon temperature.
“Hatching time varies by temperature, ranging from 80 to 90 days,” said Haley. “Nests averaging near 68 degrees produce only females, 70 to 72 degrees produces mixed sex and 73 to 75 degrees produces only males.”
Female turtles do not return to the nest after laying eggs. Survival is low not just for eggs, but also for newly hatched turtles trying to find their way to water because of predators, such as fox, opossums, raccoons, dogs and birds.
Haley said snapping turtles are highly omnivorous.
“Snapping turtles consume vegetation, insects, amphibians, fish, waterfowl, birds and small animals and scavenge dead animals,” said Haley.
The Alabama 4-H Science School has “Perry” the snapping turtle in its wildlife collection. The 4-H Science School uses its live animal programs to teach about the state’s biodiversity and to foster interest in environmental stewardship.