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Snapping Turtle

(Chelydra serpentina)

The Snapping Turtle is the largest turtle in Minnesota, and also the most aggressive. Growing up to 50 cm in length, this species is seen in shades of brown, gray, black, or olive. The serrated carapace of the Snapping Turtle is often covered with alga due to its almost exclusively aquatic lifestyle, and the plastron (bottom shell) is extremely small, preventing the turtle from completely protecting itself.

The lifespan of the Snapping Turtle nearly reaches that of the human, and they are most often seen in early June when females deposit their eggs on land. The snap that earns their name is merely a defensive behavior used when on land, and these turtles, like Painted Turtles, can only swallow when submerged in water. Surprisingly, though this species has been known for eating ducklings and small mammals, a majority of its diet is in fact plant life or decaying matter.

There is a healthy population of this turtle species at the Saint John’s Arboretum, and they can be found in nearly every large wetland.

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