Snapping Turtle

Scientific Name: Chelydra serpentina

Found in pockets across most of Southern Ontario, the snapping turtle is the most prehistoric-looking turtle species.  Snappers can live to be over 100 years of age, but they cannot reproduce until they are 15–20 years old.  This makes the death of a breeding-age female a very serious loss.  The snapping turtle’s long tail has a series of triangular spikes along the top that are reminiscent of those of a stegosaurus. The carapace (upper shell) ranges from being tan or olive to black in colour.  It has a coarsely serrated anterior (front) edge and three longitudinal ridges, and is often covered with algae due the the animal’s abundance of time spent under water.  The plastron (lower shell) is very small.  The maximum length of the carapace in this species is 47cm, making the snapping turtle the largest freshwater turtle species in Canada.

Snapping turtle nests contain up to 50 round eggs, which resemble ping-pong balls.  Like many reptiles, the gender of the hatchlings is determined by the temperature of the egg.  Eggs that maintain a temperature of 23-28ºC will be male; any temperature outside of this range will create a female.  After two to three months, the hatchlings will emerge from the nest, appearing darker in colour and about the size of a loonie or toonie.

Facts are from SARO (Species at Risk in Ontario) and the Ontario Turtle Conservation Center.
Photos are courtesy of DTW volunteers.