Alligator Snapping Turtle

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Species group:

Other common names: Loggerhead Turtle, Alligator Turtle

Scientific name: Macroclemys temminckii

The basics:
This largest of all North American turtles is also among most interesting, “fishing” with a lure that puts human anglers to shame! Unfortunately, the tiny dinosaur-like hatchlings that so enthrall turtle fans grow up to be behemoths capable of severing a finger, and needing a room-sized pool as a home.

The Alligator Snapping Turtle’s range extends along the USA’s Mississippi River Valley from Kansas, Iowa and southern Illinois to eastern Texas and then east to southern Georgia and northern Florida. Released pets have been captured in Japan, China, and several European countries.

Alligator Snapping Turtles are entirely aquatic, favoring deep rivers but also occurring in heavily-vegetated swamps, bayous, and lakes.

Appearance / health:
Alligator Snapping Turtles have a massive head, powerful jaws and a long neck and tail. The dark, 40-80 cm (16-31 inch) carapace bears 3 prominent ridges. Adult weights range from 20 to a record 113 kg (44-249 lbs.). As if this does not distinguish them enough, they also sport a life-like appendage, wiggled to attract fish, on the tongue.

These amazing throwbacks to eons past have lived for over 75 years in zoos. Pets, especially youngsters, are subject to typical turtle ailments, such as metabolic bone disease and fungal/bacterial infections of the shell and skin.

Behavior / temperament:
While Alligator Snappers adjust well to captivity if provided ample room (no easy task!), many remain defensive. Bites can be very severe, capable of severing fingers and inflicting other severe injuries. They should never be fed by hand, and picked up only after one is trained by an experienced handler. Alligator Snappers are not suitable pets for children (or anyone with a free ranging pet of any kind!).

Alligator Snappers do best in enclosures equipped with sub-surface basking sites of 90 F and powerful filtration. Water temperatures should range from 75-80 F. Individuals up to 10 inches in length can be accommodated in 55 100 gallon aquariums, but much larger tanks and outdoor ponds become necessary as they mature.

Powerful filters are necessary unless the enclosure can be emptied and cleaned several times weekly. Removing your turtles to an easily-cleaned container for feeding will lessen the filter’s workload. Alligator Snapping Turtles utilize dietary Vitamin D, and so if provided a healthful diet they do not require UVB exposure.

Alligator Snapping Turtles consume other turtles, fish, tadpoles, crayfish, snakes, snails, carrion, frogs, insects, ducks, and aquatic mammals such as muskrats. Vegetation, nuts, and fruits are also taken on occasion.

Pets should be fed earthworms, snails, pre-killed pink mice, crayfish, and whole, fresh-water fishes such as shiners, trout, Tilapia and native species (a steady diet of goldfish has been linked to health concerns); it is prudent to remove fin spines, where present. A high-quality dry turtle chow can comprise up to 50% of the diet. A cuttlebone should be available to supplement calcium levels.

Males may be distinguished their thicker tails and concave plastrons. Breeding usually occurs in early spring, with normal room temperature fluctuations often being sufficient to stimulate mating activity.

Gravid (egg-bearing) females usually become restless and may refuse food. They should be removed to a large container (i.e. 5x the length and width of the turtle) provisioned with moist soil and sand. Gravid females that do not nest should be seen by a veterinarian as egg retention invariably leads to a fatal infection (egg peritonitis). The 6-55 eggs may be incubated in a mix of 1 part vermiculite to 1 part water (by weight) at 78-85 F for 90-155 days.

Written by Frank Indiviglio


massive sizes, display animals, beautiful creature


time underwater, huge aquatic habitats, biting monster, nasty bite, Careful handling, fairly large tank


great tasting meat, prehistoric times

Alligator Snapping Turtle Behavior Tip

Alligator Snapping Turtle

From jarrodr Apr 17 2014 12:19PM


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