Snapping turtles may not come across as your typical pet turtles going by their appearance and size, but that doesn't mean they can't be kept as pets. If you are willing put in time on their care, we don't see any reason why you can't keep them. The 'if' there, is very important though.
Snapping turtles are the two extant species of the Chelydridae family of reptiles: the common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) and the alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii).
These turtles belong to the lengthy list of exotic pets that are fast gaining popularity in various parts of the world.
However, it is also worth noting that these species are not meant for everybody. If you intend to keep them as pets, there are a few things that you need to take into consideration before you go ahead.
About the Species
Snapping turtles are large freshwater turtles, native to the Western Hemisphere ... the American continents to be precise, where they inhabit shallow ponds, lakes, and streams.
Though they are freshwater species, they are also found in brackish water close to the estuaries.
The geographic range of the common snapping turtle spans Canada and South America, while that of the alligator snapping turtle is restricted to the southern United States.
These turtles are typically characterized by their mobile neck. In addition, the alligator snapper has a thick shell with large scales, from which it derives its name. Though smaller in size, the common snapper is more aggressive than the alligator snapper. The gestation period for these species is of around 100 - 140 days.
Snappers most often display a mixture of scavenging and carnivorous behavior. They feed on fish, fish carrion, other turtles, and at times, even on young snakes and alligators. Though rare, they are also seen feeding on a range of aquatic plants.
Snapping Turtle Care
On an average, an adult snapping turtle may grow up to a length of 15 - 20 inches, which means you will require a spacious place to house your pet.
These species also grow quite fast, so it is ideal to opt for a spacious aquarium right at the beginning, instead of waiting for the snapper to grow.
At the end of the day, only a pond setting or a gigantic aquarium can make an ideal captive habitat for the species.
It is better to keep the snapper turtle habitat as simple as possible. Their voracious feeding habits and behavior are bound to leave the habitat in a mess every once in a while. Keeping it simple will mean less efforts in cleaning. You will have to provide a source of water and a basking place within the habitat.
You will have to make it a point to change the water at least once in a week. (It is better to change it on alternate days.) Ideal temperature for your pet snapping turtle habitat will be in the range of 75 to 87 °F.
The diet of your pet snapper can consist of a range of meats, including chicken, beef, and pork, as well as pond snails, crayfish, medium-sized minnows, etc. Young snapping turtles will feast on mealworms, ghost shrimps, night crawlers, etc.
In terms of vegetables, you can include lettuce, mustard greens, etc., in their diet.
These are the basic requirements that you need to make a note of, when keeping a pet snapping turtle. Additionally, you also need to note that snapping turtles can become more demanding in terms of attention as they grow. Therefore, you should only opt for the species 'if' you are willing to devote enough time for its care.