Page 125 - A Field Guide to Fairfax County's Plants and Wildlife
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mon Snapping Turtle

(Chelydra serpentina)


The Common Snapping Turtle’s carapace is brown or black and often covered
with mud and algae. Its plastron is cream or brown. The dark skin is yellowish
around the neck, legs and tail. It has a long neck and big head with a hooked
upper jaw and beak-shaped mouth. This is Virginia’s largest turtle. The shell
grows up to 22 centimeters. It cannot pull its head and legs into its shell like
other turtles. Males mature in four to six years, and females mature in 10 to 12
years. They mate from May through June and their young hatch in August. A
wild Common Snapping Turtle may live 30 years.

Distribution and Habitat

It lives in all five physiographic provinces. This turtle lives in freshwater or
brackish water streams, lakes, ponds, marshes and swamps. It prefers habitat
with soft mud bottoms, lots of aquatic vegetation and submerged brush and

Role in Food Web

Its food includes Bluegills, crayfish, bullfrogs, Canada Geese, Creek
Chubs, Northern Copperheads, earthworms, Leopard Slugs, Red-backed
Salamanders, Meadow Voles, Wood Frogs, Five-lined Skinks, American Toads,
Yellow Pond Lilies, Common Duckweed and algae. Eggs and hatchlings have
various predators like other turtles, Great Blue Herons, Raccoons, skunks,
American Bullfrogs, Northern Water Snakes and Largemouth Bass. Adults are
aggressive fighters and have few predators besides humans.
Basic Turtle Anatomy

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