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Nature Note: The Snapping Turtle

Nature Note: The Snapping Turtle


My field guides state there are two kinds of snapping turtles in the Skiatook area, the common snapping turtle and the alligator snapping turtle.

However, the only one I’ve ever encountered is the common snapping turtle, which I have seen throughout the year, even under the ice of a frozen winter pond, where it was searching for food. It is the only turtle active during the winter. The other pond turtles are inactive when the weather is cold, but they become active again when it warms up, even during winter. Box turtles sleep or brumate (become dormant) during the winter.

Snapping turtles are the largest freshwater turtles. They have large heads with powerful hooked jaws and a long tail. These primitive-looking turtles have short tempers and will strike viciously if bothered and can inflict serious bites. The shell of the common snapper is fairly smooth and often covered with algae or mud. They are frequently seen far from ponds as they move across land from one body of water to another.

The alligator snapper has a rough, serrated shell, and has a strongly hooked beak. It is by far the largest of freshwater turtles, weighing up to 250 pounds. The turtle rarely basks but tends to stay at the bottom of ponds. Since I have never seen one, if a person finds one, I would appreciate it if they would let me know so I can take pictures. Thanks.

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