Snapping Turtles

There are many creatures that live beneath the waters of Oxbow Lake. This is the first of a series that will be presented to provide information that we think you will find interesting and informative. Our first subject is a formidable amphibian THE SNAPPING TURTLE.

The COMMON SNAPPING TURTLE is a large freshwater turtle of the family Chelydridae. Its natural range extends from the southwest edge of the Rockies east throughout most of the country. This species and the larger Alligator Snapping Turtle are the only two species in this family found in North America.

The snapping turtle has a rugged muscular build with ridged carapaces (upper shell) the length of which can exceed 20 inches and weigh up to 35 lbs. Males are larger than females with almost all animals weighing in excess of 25 pounds being male and quite old, as the species continues to grow throughout life.  Snapping turtles consume both plant and animal matter, and are important aquatic scavengers, but they are also active hunters that prey on anything they can swallow, including many invertebrates, fish, frogs, reptiles (including snakes and smaller turtles), unwary birds, and small mammals.

These turtles have few predators when older, however, eggs are subject to predation by crows, mink, skunks, foxes, and raccoons. Life span in the wild is poorly known, but long-term mark-recapture data suggest a maximum age over 100 years. Which suggests that some of Oxbow’s snappers may be here longer than any of us. Large old male snappers have very few natural threats due to their formidable size and defenses, and tend to have a very low annual mortality rate.

Over the years the only snappers we have seen, we either caught or snagged while fishing; maybe a dozen. They are noted for their combative disposition when out of water. In the water they tend to flee. HEED THIS WARNING if you should hook or snag a snapping turtle, unless you intend to eat it, DO NOT attempt to hand land or net it. The powerful beak like jaws, sharp claws, and long neck can inflict serious damage. You could lose a finger. Do not bring this creature into your boat. Simply cut the line and avoid the danger. Never-the-less the common snapping turtle is a natural part of Oxbow Lake’s ecosystem.


  1. Females are capable of storing sperm for years in case Tommy turtle doesn’t show up.
  2. Group of turtles is called a Bale.
  3. Snappers hung out with dinosaurs…. evidence points to evolution over 40M years.
  4. During the incubation period (10 weeks), the sex of babies is influenced by temperature.
  5. World record weight of an Alligator snapper is 3123 lbs.

P.S. Oh yeah, check out the Fishing Report on the website. Our intent is to publish a monthly report from Summer thru Mid Fall” Please send us your experiences so we can share with everyone.

Thank You,

Paul Cieslak

Gary Hughes