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Canada's Species   Amphibians and reptiles

Common Snapping Turtle

Chelydra serpentina

Common Snapping Turtle. Photo:David Green
Common Snapping Turtle. Photo:David Green

Snapping turtles are usually easy to distinguish from the other families. The bottom of their carapace is smaller for a given body size, exposing their legs and given them greater mobility. Their tails are fairly long and are somewhat crocodilian in appearance. Even if only a quarter the size of the famous alligator snapping turtle, the common snapping turtle shares its foul disposition and viciousness on land where it is most vulnerable. If encountered in the water, snapping turtles will generally just swim away. Regardless of where it is encountered, a good distance should be kept between them and yourself. They can and have been known to mutilate people. Fairly widespread in Canada, common snappers can be found in and around ponds, marshes, rivers and lakes. As a result, their shells are usually covered with a layer of algae. Their diet consists of fish, frogs, birds and mammals, both dead and alive.

Map of Common Snapping Turtle in Canada
Distribution of Common Snapping Turtle in Canada

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