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Common Snapping Turtle

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Issue: 66 Section: Baby Animals Geography: Canada Ecuador, United States, Central Canada

February 7, 2010

Common Snapping Turtle


by Cameron Fenton

[CC2.0] Photo: Scott Robinson

One of the largest freshwater turtles in North America, the common snapping turtle—a member of the Chelydridae family—can trace its roots to the Late Cretaceous period, over 70 million years ago.

Chelydra serpentina, named for its powerful jaws and the snake-like appearance of its neck and head, can be found all across central Canada, the United States and as far south as Ecuador. Typically living in shallow water, the common snapping turtle can be a prickly customer on land, with a reputation of being unfriendly to wayward fingers.

Snapping turtles’ snorkel-like nostrils lie on the very tip of their snouts, allowing them to remain in shallow water and mud for long periods of time.

Efficient aquatic scavengers, the omnivorous snapping turtle has a varied diet of plant and animal matter. Snappers are also known to hunt on occasion, eating small fish, rodents, reptiles and even unsuspecting birds.

Human interest in the snapping turtle has typically been for making soup, with hunting still practiced in most of North America. In Ontario, they have been labeled a species of special concern—a species with characteristics that make it sensitive to human activities and natural events.

Known in North American folklore as the “Ograbme” (embargo spelled backwards) the snapping turtle earned a place in the history of our southern neighbours, becoming a feature in political cartoons commenting on the 1807 Jeffersonian embargo act which banned trade between the United States and other nations.

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The Alligator snapping turtle is actually the largest freshwater turtle in North America. Species, Macrochelys temminckii has been known to reach weights of 200 lbs.


I stand corrected....

Thank you anonymous vanguard of the hinterland who's who...one of the largest freshwater turtles it is.

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