Alligator Snapping Turtle

The alligator snapping turtle is the largest freshwater turtle in North America and lives only in the Southeastern United States. Males are about 26 inches long and 175 pounds, though they can get up to 220 pounds. Females are much smaller at only 50 pounds. Alligator snappers can live to be 50-100 years old. Alligator snapping turtles spend most of their life in rivers, canals and lakes, only coming out in April when it is time for females to nest inland. They can hold their breath for 40-50 minutes, and some stay submerged so long algae grows on their shells. Females lay anywhere from 17-52 eggs, whose sex, like other reptiles, is determined by the temperature around them. From 77-80.6°F male hatchlings are born and from 84.2-86°F females will be born. Unlike all other snapping turtles, alligator snapping turtles have eyes on the sides of their head. Alligator snappers eat fish, musk turtles, acorns, and other plants and animals. To catch their prey, alligator snapping turtles tongue’s have a piece of flesh that attracts fish and frogs within snapping distance. They will lie on the riverbed and open their jaws so the flesh looks like a red wriggling worm. Speaking of snapping, snappers have a bite force of 1,000 pounds and their jaws can bite through bone.

Alligator snapper turtles, when they’re full grown, have no predators except humans. Humans capture them for meat, shells, and to sell on the exotic animals trade. Before the 1970s catching turtles was unregulated, in response to the high mortality, states imposed new laws. However, it will still take a while for the alligator snapper to recover. Bycatch, when animals are accidentally caught in nets not meant for them, is also threatening to the snapping turtles. Chemical pollution in rivers also affects them, as well as other types of habitat degradation. Many predators attack snapping turtle eggs, including ants, raccoons, and wild hogs.


Image by the National Wildlife Federation

Creating stricter regulations on the capturing and hunting of animals will not only help the Alligator Snapping Turtles, but also other animals threatened by trapping. Regulations on other threats, like the degradation of habitat because of chemicals and other factors, will ultimately help many animals and plants.

Raise awareness for this amazing animal and donate to organizations dedicated to preserving habitat, plants and animals. Advocate and vote for stricter regulations on chemical degradation of habitat.

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Image by Kevin Enge

Image by Joel Sartore

Image by the National Wildlife Federation

Image by Joel Sartore

Works Cited

Alligator Snapping Turtle. (2018, September 24). Retrieved October 09, 2020, from

“Alligator Snapping Turtle.” National Wildlife Federation,

“Alligator Snapping Turtle.” Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission,

Cover image by Joel Sartore