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Snapping Turtles’ Extensive Reach

When you see a Snapping Turtle on land, its head is often only a few inches out of its shell, but don’t be fooled!  The length of its neck can be up to two-thirds the length of its shell and if threatened it can quickly extend its neck all the way out. (Keeping yourself out of reach is wise.  However, come June, when female Snapping Turtles often are found crossing roads when they leave their ponds to lay eggs, rescuing them from oncoming cars usually calls for close proximity to them. To hold and transport them (to the side of the road they were headed), just grab the back end of the shell, where their head can’t quite reach your hands.)

Their long neck allows Snapping Turtles to capture prey such as fish, frogs and crayfish from a distance.  When in shallow water, they can lie on the muddy bottom of the pond with only their heads occasionally exposed in order to take an occasional breath.  If you look closely at a Snapping Turtle’s head (see photo), you will see that their nostrils are positioned on the very tip of their snout, effectively functioning as snorkels.

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15 responses

  1. Great piece! Some day I’ll tell you the story of Julia Falosk and watching her harvest a snapper for soup at her restaurant. And another great story about trapping snappers in the Raritan River in Califon NJ (center of the universe).

    On Mon, May 4, 2020 at 7:39 AM Naturally Curious with Mary Holland wrote:

    > Mary Holland posted: “When you see a Snapping Turtle on land, its head is > often only a few inches out of its shell, but don’t be fooled! The length > of its neck can be up to two-thirds the length of its shell and if > threatened it can quickly extend its neck all the way out. (K” >

    May 4, 2020 at 7:46 am

    • If anyone would have great snapper stories, it is you, Curt! 🙂

      May 4, 2020 at 7:54 am

  2. PS : we have a pair of small hawks cruising the farm. I imagine they will be nesting nearby.

    May 4, 2020 at 7:48 am

  3. I have picked up a Snapper trying to cross the road, and it was a large one. I placed my hands carefully between the tail and legs and it’s head swung around and I could feel the air on my hands as it snapped!

    May 4, 2020 at 8:13 am

  4. Alice

    I’m aware they have long necks, but didn’t know they are THAT long! Have rescued several, one on a towel, to get it across the road…what a stinky towel! It amazes me how many people don’t know the difference between snappers & painted turtles & don’t recognize the baby ones either.

    May 4, 2020 at 8:28 am

  5. Tom Jones

    Great advice Mary! I keep my short-handled snow shovel in my trunk most of the year, & use it to scoop/push snappers from behind off the road. They don’t like it, but . . .

    Much love – Tom

    May 4, 2020 at 8:44 am

  6. Laurie Spry

    I love ‘can’t QUITE reach your hands’!

    May 4, 2020 at 8:44 am

  7. Diane Alexander

    Yikes. I wouldn’t want to find out the hard way on picking one of these babies up.  I like turtles, but not getting bit by one.We lost our feral cat, Blackie, to poisoning. Very sad. Still have our two of our main house cats. Love them. It’s very hard when I get soooo attached to them. Got out into the garden yesterday. Felt great. More raking today. It has gotten very warm. Take care. XOXOXO Di

    May 4, 2020 at 8:47 am

  8. Marc Cydan

    Having handled many, many snappers as a child and adult and having retained all 10 fingers, I developed a technique. Holding them as suggested where their necks cannot reach is correct, but they can turn their feet inward and their claws are also quite long and can scratch you to bleeding. I always carry heavy gloves in my trunk for turtle rescue and hold the turtle, head facing out, up to my midsection. It’s physically demanding on the arms when you have a large turtle, and jarring when they snap, but if you don’t have far to go it works as long as you aren’t wearing a very light shirt. I once climbed a fence along a freeway with a smaller snapper tucked up against me this way with one hand. Keeping an empty small cardbord box in the car during migration is very useful, too.

    May 4, 2020 at 8:56 am

  9. Any chance you’ve a pic in your archives of a correct snapping-turtle hold? That would be helpful info.

    May 4, 2020 at 9:22 am

    • Hi Tom,
      Great idea. I don’t happen to have one, but will try to get one in June!

      May 4, 2020 at 3:09 pm

  10. BCK

    If you keep a large flattened cardboard box in the trunk area of your car, it keeps the bottom cleaner, and it can be used to encourage a turtle’s crossing with no touching.

    May 4, 2020 at 9:29 am

  11. kathiefive

    I once pulled a big snapper off a dirt road in Cambridge MA by getting it to snap on a big stick and then dragging it off. I didn’t think I would be strong enough to hold it. Great photo Mary!

    May 4, 2020 at 1:15 pm

  12. Char Delabar

    >

    May 4, 2020 at 7:49 pm

  13. Kathryn

    The method mentioned by kathiefive, above, has always worked well for me. I used to keep a “turtle remover stick” in my trunk. It had a knob on one end that I would wave in front of the turtle. When he snapped down, I pulled him as far across the road as possible. Then repeated a time or two until he was safe.

    May 4, 2020 at 9:45 pm

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