Humane Capture and Removal of Nuisance Snapping Turtles

We receive calls for snapping turtles when they find themselves in small ponds such as koye pounds or are in their egg laying phase. When females go off to lay their eggs sometimes they venture into yard spaces. Customer call us to have them relocated to a near by area where they wont be in the way of children and pets. Other times when they invade koye pounds we get those calls to remove them before they cause damage to these expensive fish.

Snappers are a freshwater turtle and is easily recognized by its dark carapace (upper shell) with a deeply serrated back margin, and a small plastron (bottom shell) that does not completely cover all of the animal’s flesh. Three low keels (or ridges) on the carapace of younger turtles often become obscure as the turtle matures. The carapace measures 8-12 inches on an average adult, and the turtles can weigh between 10-35 pounds. The carapace can vary in color, from green to brown to black; sometimes it is covered with moss. Snapping turtles have a long tail, often measuring as long or longer than the carapace, that is covered with bony plates. They also have a large head, long neck, and a sharp, hooked upper jaw. This hard beak has a rough cutting edge that is used for tearing food.

Snapping turtles are almost entirely aquatic and can be found in a wide variety of aquatic habitats, preferably with slow-moving water and a soft muddy or sandy bottom. They inhabit almost any permanent or semi-permanent body of water, including marshes, creeks, swamps, bogs, pools, lakes, streams, rivers, and impoundments. Snapping turtles can tolerate brackish water (mixture of seawater and fresh water).

As omnivores, snapping turtles feed on plants, insects, spiders, worms, fish, frogs, small turtles, snakes, birds, crayfish, small mammals, and carrion. Plant matter accounts for about a third of the diet. Young turtles will forage for food, but older turtles often hang motionless in the water and ambush their prey by lunging forward with the head at high speed and powerful jaws to seize prey.

Sexual maturity has more to do with size than age. Turtles are ready to mate when their carapace measures about 8 inches. The nesting season is from April through November, with most of the nesting in southern New England occurring in late May through June. Snapping turtles rarely leave their aquatic habitat except during the breeding season, at which time females travel great distances in search of a place to dig a nest and lay eggs. Some turtles have been found as far as a mile from the nearest water source. Selected nest sites include banks, lawns, gardens, road embankments, and sometimes muskrat burrows.

One clutch of eggs is laid in May or June. With powerful hind legs, the female digs a shallow bowl-shaped nest in a well-drained, sunny location. Over a period of several hours, she lays approximately 20 to 40 creamy white, ping-pong ball-sized eggs. After covering the eggs, the female returns to the water, leaving the eggs and hatchlings to fend for themselves. Turtle nests are often preyed upon by raccoons, skunks, and crows. As much as 90% of the nests are annually destroyed by predators.