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July 15, 2008 / Bo Mackison

Snapping Turtle

Snapping Turtle

This snapping turtle – one odd looking creature – was on dry land , traversing a muddy path moving south from the Wisconsin Riverway. She was not quite 2 feet long. It may look like I got rather close to her, but I’m not crazy – I was using a 70-300 mm telephoto lens. Even so I was about 3 feet away, and didn’t choose to get closer. She did sit quietly, staring at me wherever I went, and wasn’t disturbed as I set up my tripod to take a few photos.

Early to mid summer is a good time to see snapping turtles as it is their peak egg-laying time, and the turtles actively move from ponds and streams to nest-sites. They prefer sandy, south-facing banks and are frequently seen laying eggs along country roads. If seen in a road, they should be prodded towards the side which they are headed. Probably better not to pick one up as these turtles have strong jaws and long necks. And, after all, they are called “snapping” turtles.

Their feet are equipped with bear-like claws and their tails resemble the tails of dinosaurs. I think their faces look a bit like a mole’s face. Definitely a prehistoric-looking creature. They mostly live in the eastern two-thirds of the United States and Central America. Individuals can live at least 50 years.

Snapping turtles, as we know them, evolved about 40 million years ago, and they are the ancestors of most turtles of today. Today’s snapping turtles have hardly changed from 215 million years ago when the most primitive turtle we have evidence of lived. In comparison, the era of dinosaurs was approximately 150 million years ago and humans evolved a mere 3.5 million years ago.


  1. Gandalf / Jul 15 2008 7:44 am

    You didn’t say anything about petting the nice turtle. šŸ™‚

    The turtle’s face is rather human-like. It seems to say “Are you done yet?”

    Interesting post.

  2. Anna Surface / Jul 15 2008 8:35 am

    Great capture! I love snapping turtles as they are a prehistoric-looking creature. šŸ™‚

  3. Robin / Jul 15 2008 12:58 pm

    Fantastic shot, Bo! You are much, much braver than I am.

    We have quite a few snappers in our pond. There’s one giant that keeps hitting the bottom of the boat when I pedal by the area where s/he hangs out. The bank of the pond in that area is littered with pieces of turtle egg shells.

  4. Marcie / Jul 15 2008 2:31 pm

    This is an incredible image. I’ve never seen a snapping turtle up close before (is it safe?). I’m in agreement with Anna. There’s something prehistoric about these creatures.

  5. montucky / Jul 15 2008 3:58 pm

    Interesting critter and interesting post!

  6. Stevo / Jul 15 2008 10:52 pm

    Great capture.

    I used to attend a summer camp with a lake full of the fearsome beasts. Swimming was a dangerous adventure.

  7. ybonesy / Jul 15 2008 11:15 pm

    I have never seen a snapping turtle before. Yes, its face does resemble the mole. And 2-feet long. Wow, that’s a big creature. I can appreciate your caution in not getting too close. Great photo. Amazing, really.

  8. Bo / Jul 16 2008 6:35 am

    Gandalf – I think it best not to pet snapping turtles. Anyway she doesn’t look very pet-able. šŸ™‚

    Anna – they not only look pre-historic, they pretty much are. Imagine this creature in a land of dinosaurs!

    Not all that brave, Robin – I was keeping a safe distance, and my Sherpa claimed he was there for protection, too. I value mty fingers and toes. Turtle eggshells – wow!

    Marcie – I thought I was safe at the time. After I started researching, umm – not so sure I’d do it again.

  9. Bo / Jul 16 2008 6:39 am

    Montucky – yes, interesting is a good word. I guess Montana is too far west for these guys, hmmm?

    Stevo – Ew! Swimming with snapping turtles – not my idea of a fun camp experience!

    Aren’t they amazing ybonesy? And big, very big – this was one big Mama. šŸ™‚

  10. Bernie Kasper / Jul 16 2008 10:41 am

    I use to live it in the country and we had a pond on our property, I was amazed to watch this one very large snapping turtle take almost every goose and duck baby that swam on this body of water.

    The chicks would be scooting across the surface and in a instant would disappear, I saw this happen on numerous occasions and couldn’t figure out what was taking them till I found the snapper sunning on the bank one day with feathers sticking to the top of his head !!

    Nice shot Bo !!

  11. visuallens / Jul 16 2008 10:53 am

    Very well taken and I haven’t see snapping turtles before like this one. Thanks for the information as well.

  12. gypsy-heart / Jul 16 2008 12:52 pm

    Excellent shot Bo. They come on Drayton Island to lay their eggs. It is a battle for survival there..the armadillo’s will dig up the eggs and eat them. šŸ˜¦ I have to stop my dog Ringo from killing the armadillo’s. :O I would like to think he is the guardian of the turtles, but I fear he is simply being a dog. šŸ™‚

    The babies are so precious when they survive..hurrying down to the river’s edge to dive in. The turtles and alligators seem to live in peace there.

    Thank you for sharing this!

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