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Invasive Reptiles and Amphibians

Common Snapping Turtle

  • Scientific Name

    Chelydra serpentina - Visit ITIS for full scientific classification. 

  • Description



    • Large aquatic turtle with a massive head.
    • Their top shell can be anywhere from 8 to over 19 inches in length.
    • Average weight has been reported to be about 45 pounds, but in captivity they can grow over 75 pounds.
    • The tail-end of its shell is heavily serrated.
    • The tail is very long, potentially longer than the length of the shell.
    • Usually a black, brown, or tan color.
    • Skin can be a pale cream to yellowish color compared to the dark-colored shell.
    • Large legs, heavy claws, and webbed toes. 
  • Habitat
    • Highly adaptable, found in a wide range of freshwater and brackish habitats.
    • Rarely found basking in the sun, but spends most of the time resting buried in the mud, or sediment on the bottom of a water body. 
  • Invasion Pathways and Distribution
    • Native to the eastern and central U.S.
    • Now found in areas throughout the U.S., including California.
    • The means of introduction to California is unknown, but likely due to release by pet owners.
    • See USGS for a map of current U.S. distribution. 
  • Life History
    • Adults become sexually mature at around 4 to 6 years.
    • Females travel on land to build nests and lay eggs.
    • Egg laying usually occurs in the summer months.
    • It is estimated that individuals can live over 50 years.
  • Impacts
    • Extremely adaptable, has a diverse diet, feeding on anything that it can swallow, including both plants and animals.
    • Their impact is unknown, but it has the potential to be a food competitor and predator of native turtles. 
  • References and Useful Links

    For references by category and links to other useful AIS sites see our Learn More page.