Recognized Subspecies in VA: None
Size: 12 - 18 inches
Status: Least Concern
The Common Snapping Turtle is our largest inland reptile in Virginia, and can weigh over sixty ponds. They have a notoriously powerful bite, coupled with a lightning quick strike and this allows them to lock-onto prey, such as ducks, and wrestle it down like a bulldog. Sadly, this species is not really in favor for most of our local people, as they are believed to eat all the fish in a pond. In all actuality, the Common Snapping Turtle is an irreplaceable and vital block in our ecosystem. First animal eats a lot of plant material, like duckweed and spatterdock, that can overgrow a pond. Second, yes this species is the top of the food chain in our local waterways, but they prefer weaker prey, as this is a turtle, leaving the stronger fish to survive and pass on genes. Finally, when these turtles make wallows in shallow parts of rivers, these turtles start a foot-hold for plants to take root, forming new marshes and habitat for several species.
Common Snapping Turtles are monstrous turtles, with very ragged shells, with clear saw-tooth edges. They have massive claws, that resemble the claws or Grizzly Bears. They have a long, spiky tail, that looks to be from a dinosaur, and their Latin name "serpentina" reflects its surprisingly long neck. Hatchlings often start out black to chocolate, and have whip-like tails. The tail acts like a third leg of a tripod, allowing the turtle to stand on its hind legs underwater to reach the surface to breathe.
Similar Species: There are really no similar species in Virginia, though all turtles are often misconstrued as "Snapping Turtles". Also, many people misidentify this species with the Alligator Snapping Turtle, which is native to more southern states such as Florida, Georgia, Texas, and Arkansas.
Maps and External Sources
Herping Virginia encourages all naturalists to practice ethical, safe, and sustainable herping. The use of proper herping methods and techniques is beneficial to both wildlife and herpers. Visit the links below for more information.