Is the name snapping turtle making you worried and frightened of this beast? Well, even though the same sounds quite dangerous, the snapping turtles make a very interesting pet, if cared for properly. So, if your kid has just requested you to buy him a pet turtle or maybe you are wondering to get the cute looking turtle from a pet shop, then you will find some answers about caring for your pet turtles.
Facts About Snapping Turtles
Snapping turtles are really fascinating creatures that have a long life, large size and aggressive nature to top it all. If you are ready for providing long-term care, only then you should get one home. Let us see some facts that will help you decide if this is the right pet for your family.
The habitat consists of the lakes, ponds and rivers of eastern and southern North America, Central America and northern part of South America. These turtles can also be found in brackish waters of Florida and other regions.
The snapping turtles or Chelydra serpentina is divided into two groups. The common snapping turtle and the alligator snapping turtles are these two groups of turtles found in the wild. The common snapping turtle is further divided into 4 subspecies:
- Chelydra serpentina serpentina (common Northern snapping turtle
- Chelydra serpentina osceola (Florida snapping turtle)
- Chelydra serpentina rossignoni (Mexican snapping turtle)
- Chelydra serpentina acutirostris (Ecuadorian snapping turtle)
The second group has only one turtle species in its group, that is, Macroclemys temmincki (alligator snapping turtle).
The common snapping turtle is the largest turtle found in North America. They can live up to 40 to 50 years and reach about 60 pounds. The alligator snapping turtles are a slow-growing species and therefore can live even longer. They can reach a massive 250 pounds and above in size.
They have earned their name due to their snapping habit. They have really strong legs and jaws that can inflict serious injury. When you bring home a snapper, never ever be tempted to pick it up by its tail, especially an adult. The common snapping turtles are ferocious but not aggressive by nature. They can be distinguished from the alligator snapping turtle by their smooth shell. They catch their prey in water by their lightning snap. When the common snapping turtle is threatened, he may stand up on all fours and rock back and forth with snapping and hissing sounds. But most of the time, they prefer to turn around and walk or swim away. They are generally shy animals and will try hard to avoid confrontations.
The adult alligator snapping turtle have three clearly visible ridges. They also have a fleshy worm like lure found at the bottom of their mouth. They use this wiggly, flesh like thing to lure prey into their mouth in the water. The fish gets tempted to check out the worm and enter the turtles mouth. And 'snap', the turtle closes it mouth and swallows it meal. The alligator snapping turtle has powerful jaws and larger than the common snappers. Their jaws are so powerful that they can amputate a person's fingers.
When you bring home a snapping turtle, you need to get a really large tank or may be built a pond in your yard. This is because these turtles grow really large and need space to move freely. The water filled in the tank or pond should be clean. The water should be deep enough to cover the turtle and not too deep that it cannot raise its head out to the surface to breathe air. The water should be kept clean at all times and therefore use a powerful external filter.
The water temperature should be maintained at around 22º to 25º C throughout the year. If kept in captivity they do not require hibernation. They hibernate only when kept outdoors. You can fill the tank bottom with an inch of gravel and add some driftwood. This will help the turtle climb over and rest out of the water. When kept indoors, they should be exposed to a day and night cycle. You can place a lamp or basking light over the tank during the day.
The good thing about snapping turtles is the variety of food they eat. You can choose a right diet for your turtle that consist of pellets, vegetables and a protein source. The right food will help your pet grow healthy all his life. You can get pellets at a pet shop. They are formulated to provide all the required nutrients to your pet. Just feed the turtle with a handful of pellets every day. Babies need only dime sized pellets. An adult turtle should be fed pellet amount that equals a silver dollar in size.
Vegetables are a good source of vitamins for them. You need to feed him shredded lettuce, celery and carrots every three days. You can float these vegetables in the water if he likes his veggies wet. You should include a source of protein in the food that you are giving your turtle. In wild, a snapping turtle will eat small minnows, fish, flies, bugs, etc. In captivity, they can be fed crickets, flies, worms, etc. bought from a pet store. You can even feed him live or frozen fish. They also love eating raw liver, beef and hearts. This protein supplement should be provided once or twice a week.
You can take your snapper outdoors on sunny days to help provide him with the essential vitamin D. But keep an eye on these curious creatures, they are quite a handful. With time you will find your snapping turtle being tamed.