Snapping Turtle

Snapping turtle

(Chelydra serpentine)

Features

  • Canada’s largest freshwater turtle reaching average length of 20-36 cm and 4.5-16.0kg
  • Large black, olive or brown shells, usually algae-covered
  • Tail longer than body with “dinosaur-like” triangular crests along its length
  • Hatchlings loonie-size exhibiting darker colouring than adults with pronounced ridges along length of shell
  • Spend majority of time hiding beneath soft mud and leaf litter of shallow water bodies and streams with only nose exposed to the surface for air
  • Nesting season is early to mid summer, when females lay eggs in sandy or gravelly areas near streams

Status

Special Concern Provincially and Nationally

Range

Extends from Ecuador to Canada. In Canada, occurs from Saskatchewan to Nova Scotia. In Ontario, mainly limited to southern Ontario where its range is decreasing.

Threats

Snapping Turtles naturally take 15-20 years to reach sexual maturity; therefore mortality of even a few adults each year can cause a significant decline in a population. As such, Snapping Turtle populations are vulnerable to threats such as road mortality, hunting and poaching.  Other threats include nest predation by raccoons, skunks and foxes, whose numbers are thought to be unnaturally increasing as a result of easily available resources near human settlements (IUCN).

Protection

The Snapping Turtle and its habitat are protected under the following legislation:

References

Ministry of Natural Resources: Snapping Turtle

Royal Ontario Museum: Snapping Turtle

Ontario Nature: Snapping Turtle

International Union for Conservation of Nature: Snapping Turtle

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