Reptiles - Common Snapping Turtle
NPS Photo by Brad Stephenson
Common snapping turtles are occasionally seen at Wind Cave National Park. Bodies of water are not common at Wind Cave National Park and that is why the common snapping turtle is rarely seen. Water is essential for these turtles to hibernate. Common snapping turtles are widespread across North America. They can be found as far south as Ecuador in South America.
The common snapper eats almost anything including fish, crabs, frogs, snails, insects, vegetable matter, small waterfowl, reptiles, and mammals. Its unique oval-shaped carapace (top part of the shell) widens toward the back where it is rough along the edges. This makes identifying the common snapping turtle easy. Along the top of the carapace, plates stick out in a "saw tooth" fashion. The plastron (under belly of the shell) is small compared to the carapace. Other identifiable characteristics of the common snapping turtle include muscular limbs, a long neck, and a large head with sharp snapping jaws. Snapping turtles have a good sense of smell, but they cannot see well.
A predator of the common snapping turtle at Wind Cave National Park is the coyote. Common snapping turtles can live to be 40 years old and weigh up to 75 pounds.