The largest freshwater turtle in North America, alligator snapping turtles can weigh 155 to 175 pounds and can reach up to three feet in length. These turtles hunt fish, reptiles and small birds at night and are dormant during the day. Alligator snapping turtles can be found in in large freshwater lakes, ponds, rivers and streams in the southern states surrounding the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Size

    3 feet
  • Diet

    Fish, reptiles, small birds
  • Range

    North America
  • Habitat

    Freshwater lakes, ponds, rivers, streams

Physical Characteristics

  • The carapace, or upper shell, of the alligator snapping turtle is black, dark brown, grey or green in color. The carapace has three large ridges on top. Its skin is dark brown to grey in color.
  • This turtle has a large head with powerful jaws, a hooked beak and eyes on the side of its head.
  • Can weigh 155 to 175 pounds (70-80 kg) and can reach up to 3 feet (1 m) in length.
  • Alligator snapping turtles have sexual dimorphism; males are larger than females.

Animal Fact

Alligator snapping turtles use a pink worm-like tongue to lure fish in murky water

Diet / Feeding

  • Carnivorous; diet consists of mostly fish, reptiles and small birds.
  • Uses pink worm-like tongue to lure fish in murky waters.
  • Nocturnal hunters and dormant during the day.

Range / Habitat

  • Occurs in southern Georgia to northern Florida, as well as southern states surrounding the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Found in a temperate climate, often in large freshwater lakes, ponds, rivers and streams.
  • Juveniles are found in small ponds, lakes and streams.

Reproduction & Growth

  • Female turtles reproduce annually or bi-annually.
  • Nesting season varies by location but generally falls during April through June.
  • Mating season is in early spring in Florida or late spring the Mississippi Valley.
  • During nesting season, females dig nests in sand 50 meters from a body of water.
  • Eggs incubate for approximately three to four months.
  • Juveniles are active and independent upon hatching.
  • Sexual maturity is reached between 11 to 13 years of age.

Conservation Status

  • “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List.

Additional Information

  • Largest freshwater turtle in North America.
  • Spends most of its life in water, save for hatching and nesting events.
  • Lifespan in human care averages 70 years.

Sources

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