Snapping Turtle Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Snapping turtles have powerful jaws that snap together, so it's best to admire them from a safe distance. Learn where snapping turtles live, what they like to eat, and the two types of snapping turtles found in the United States.

What Are Snapping Turtles?

You might think of turtles are harmless because they are slow moving creatures that would be easy to outrun, but when it comes to snapping turtles, it's best to keep a safe distance. Snapping turtles are turtles with powerful jaws that can snap closed with a lot of strength.

What Do They Look Like?

Snapping turtles have been around since the days of the dinosaurs, and they still look like prehistoric creatures. Some of the largest snapping turtles grow to more than two feet in length and weigh hundreds of pounds.

Sticking out from under their brown-colored shells are four clawed feet, a spiky tail, and a large head with a toothless jaw that's shaped like a beak.

A common snapping turtle crossing a road
common snapping turtle

There are two types of snapping turtles: the common snapping turtles and the alligator snapping turtle. The common snapping turtle is the smaller of the two and has a smooth shell. The alligator snapping turtle's shell is spiky, and it has a large triangular head that makes it look like a scary alligator.

An alligator snapping turtle
alligator snapping turtle

An alligator snapping turtle has a weird tongue that looks like a worm. When they are hungry for a fish dinner, they go under water, open their mouth and wiggle their tongue, which lures an unsuspecting fish into their powerful jaws.

What Do They Eat?

Fish aren't the only thing snapping turtles eat. They will eat insects, frogs, small animals and birds. They also eat plants that grow in the waters where they live. Because they eat meat and plants, they are classified as omnivores.

Where Do They Live?

You can find snapping turtles in Canada, the United States and some parts of South America.

They don't like salty ocean water, so you'll find them spending most of their time in fresh bodies of water, like streams, lakes and marshlands. One of the few things that bring them out of the water is egg laying season. A female snapping turtle crawls onto land and lays 10 to 50 eggs in a nest. The eggs hatch about three to four months later.

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