Turtle Biology

Identification | Biology | Damage ID | Management | Handling


Snapping turtles are solitary animals. Mating occurs in shallow water about 6 weeks prior to females laying eggs. Males do not remain with females.  

Nesting occurs from late May to mid-June in southern states, to as late as mid-June to early July in northern sites. Gravid females engage in a pre-nesting migration, traveling up to 9 miles to wetlands adjacent to nesting sites. Females lay one clutch of 26 to 55 eggs per year.  

Nesting/Denning Cover 

Female snapping turtles travel away from water to areas with minimal vegetation, sandy soil, and sun exposure. The female scrapes out a shallow hole to lay eggs.  


Snapping turtles generally are active during the warmer months and stop feeding when water temperatures reach 63°F. They settle into the shallow portion of bottom of lakes, ponds, or rivers to a depth of 12 to 39 inches. Shallow streams are preferred. 

Snapping turtles do bask but not to the extent of other species of turtles. Basking occurs more frequently in areas with colder water.  

Snapping turtles can travel overland and have been found to travel 165 yards in a single day.  


Snapping turtles live in lakes, ponds, streams, rivers, and other fresh water environments with muddy bottoms and vegetation. They also may be found in brackish and polluted waters. In contrast, alligator snapping turtles prefer streams or rivers with greater depth, physical structure, warmer water, and detritus. 

Food Habits 

Snapping turtles are ambush predators, taking annelids, crustaceans, insects, amphibians, reptiles, ducks, and muskrats that move into striking range. Snapping turtles do consume some plant material such as duckweed.