Common Snapping Turtle
The Common Snapping Turtle is a large freshwater turtle that has a body covered with a carapace and plastron. The carapace is the upper shell, which is brown or black in color while the smaller yellowish plastron protects the turtle's belly. They have webbed feet with claws and short digits for walking through the mud and swimming. Their legs and tail appear armored due to the scales that cover them and protect them since they cannot be pulled into their shell. The shell of the Snapping Turtle can grow to a length of 18 inches, but most are only 10-12 inches in size and they can reach weights of 15-35kgs/35-75lbs. The edges of their jaws have sharp edges to rip apart food. The Common Snapping Turtle also has a large head with a strong beak instead of teeth and a serpent-like neck.
Common Snapping Turtles inhabit all bodies of water although there is a slight preference for muddy bottoms within which they can hibernate and or lie in ambush for unsuspecting prey, much like Soft Shelled Turtles. They are a highly aquatic species that basks only occasionally in the southern portion of its range and somewhat more in the northern sections. They also spend most of their time on the bottom, but do occasionally make long overland journeys. Common Snapping Turtles have the largest distribution of any turtle in North America. They range from the Rockies east through Southern Canada and all of the US, through Mexico, Central America and into South America as far south as Ecuador, (west of the Andes) though their range is interrupted in a few places south of the border.
Common Snapping Turtles are omnivores, consuming both plant and animal matter, and are important aquatic scavengers. They are also active hunters that prey on anything they can swallow, including many invertebrates, fish, frogs, reptiles (including snakes and smaller turtles), unwary birds, and small mammals.
Depending on the part of the body that is eaten, the Common Snapping Turtle has red meat similar to beef, white meat like pork, and pink meat similar to fish. The meat has a texture similar to that of frog legs or lobster. The four legs and the tail have dark meat while the neck and back straps have white meat. In some areas they are hunted very heavily for their meat, which is a popular ingredient in turtle soup.
Snappers are generally nocturnal. During the day they bury themselves into the bottom mud or sand and wait for prey to swim by. The Common Snapping Turtle's mating season is from April to July. The female will travel to her favorite nesting site, even if it means crossing roads, where she lays 20-50 eggs. The black, long tailed hatchlings emerge after 55 to 125 days and instinctively know how to head for water. The temperature makes a difference as to how many of each gender are hatched. The babies are usually at risk as they are hunted by a variety predators, including: herons, hawks, crows, large fish, raccoons, snakes, and larger turtles. The Common Snapping Turtles makes a hissing sound when it is threatened or encountered. These turtles are very shy in the water, but on land they are very aggressive and will give a painful bite. The life span of the Common Snapping Turtle is estimated to be around 30-40 years.
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