This time of year many people are seeing snapping turtles digging in their yards or swimming in home ponds. Snapping turtles and other turtles make their nests in easily dug soil, so they may lay their eggs in backyards and gardens. If the nest can be allowed to remain, hatchlings will emerge in August or September but sometimes overwintering until spring. If the area where the nest has been laid must be disturbed, contact your regional wildlife office for guidance.
Snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina) are often described as aggressive, but a better term is defensive. They try to avoid confrontation and are more likely to defend themselves on dry land. When they are on land, try to give them some extra space, and they will move on. In fact, if you see one on land it is usually a female who is looking to lay eggs. Snappers spend most of their lives in the water, where they will generally swim away from people when encountered and are usually docile.
Unfortunately, like many turtle species, snapping turtles face serious threats—being struck while crossing roads or collection for the food and pet trade. It is illegal to collect or relocate a snapping turtle without a permit, and they can only be hunted in season with a valid hunting license.
Learn more about snapping turtles in the April 2017 Conservationist (PDF).
Photo by Marcelo del Puerto.