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Snapping Turtle

A snapper nesting (photo by R Stankiewicz)

Chelydra s. serpentina

Snapping turtles show up in the strangest places. We commonly get calls about snapping turtles under docks, in windows wells, in gardens and even “at my front door.” We say “Lucky you!”

The Snapping turtle is the largest freshwater turtle native to Ontario. It has a round flat shell with serrated edges at the rear. The legs are massive. The feet are webbed and have long sharp claws. The tail is long with a row of “spikes” on the top lending a prehistoric look.

Snappers are thoroughly aquatic and leave water only to nest and migrate. The head and jaws are huge and capable of delivering a powerful bite and lighting fast strike with the help of the long and powerful neck. They have a small belly plate (or plastron) leaving a lot of skin exposed. This lack of protection accounts for the nasty disposition when on dry land.

The snapper is in decline but still present in strong numbers in many locations. Once commercially hunted for meat it has been listed as a “Species of Special Concern” by the federal and Ontario governments (Aug 2009).

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