The common snapping turtle is one of the most well-recognized terrapins in existence, and that’s in part due to the fact that its habitats spread from Nova Scotia in the north to the Gulf of Mexico in the south. The flexibility of the snapping turtle’s diet definitely has a role to play in both its broad geographic distribution and its popularity as a pet. On the surface, these voracious omnivores would appear to eat just about anything placed in front of them, but there’s a little more sophistication to their habits than that initial perception would suggest. A research paper in Psychonomic Science indicates that snapping turtle hatchlings display dietary preferences based on the first food provided to them but that they also seem to possess an innate preference for specific diets.
Snapping turtles eat many types of animals and aquatic plants. They use the rough cutting edge of their beak-shaped upper jaw to tear their food for consumption because they don’t have teeth to chew food. Snapping turtles are large reptiles with long-tail and elongated snouts, like a beak. Many people are aware that these animals have a strong bite and a tendency to snap their jaws. You can distinguish two snapping turtle types that feed similarly, but their catching food methods are different. So, let’s see what do snapping turtles eat.
Snapping turtles are really fascinating creatures that have a long life, large size and aggressive nature to top it all. If you are ready for providing long-term care, only then you should get one home. Let us see some facts that will help you decide if this is the right pet for your family.
What do snapping turtles eat?
Contrary to the idea that snapping turtles eat fingers (which they will snap at if you get too close), their diet is wide and varied. They are omnivores, but the majority of their diet is aquatic vegetation (about 65%). This seems contrary to the large set of jaws and defenses they have, but like their dinosaur ancestors they’re mostly herbivores. The other major part of their diet is fish. Because they are slow and ungainly swimmers they usually eat slower moving fish and non-game fish species (which also makes them less of a nuisance to fishermen), water snakes, or eels. Occasionally they will eat dead stuff (fish, frogs, animals), amphibians, invertebrates like crayfish, worms, or beetles. They may even eat the occasional small mammal thrown in for variety, after all, balanced diet is a very good thing.
Vegetables are a good source of vitamins for them. You need to feed him shredded lettuce, celery and carrots every three days. You can float these vegetables in the water if he likes his veggies wet. You should include a source of protein in the food that you are giving your turtle. In wild, a snapping turtle will eat small minnows, fish, flies, bugs, etc. In captivity, they can be fed crickets, flies, worms, etc. bought from a pet store. You can even feed him live or frozen fish. They also love eating raw liver, beef and hearts. This protein supplement should be provided once or twice a week.
Here is a list of animals that snapping turtles eat:
- Small Turtles
- Bird Eggs
- Small Mammals
For plants, here is what do snapping turtles eat:
- Yellow Pond Lily
- Water Fern
- Water Lettuce
- Common Duckweed
- Common Arrowhead
- Bog Buttons
- Bog Moss
- Mermaid Weed
- Water Hyacinth
What Do Snapping Turtles Eat in Captivity vs in the Wild?
While a snapping turtle in a pond may eat anything that comes its way, that’s not a practical choice for snapping turtles in captivity. In captivity, turtles should only eat two to three times a week. Baby snapping turtles should be fed every day. Live insects and worms found at a pet supply store make up the most common diet of a snapping turtle in captivity, but they can also be fed raw and lean meats like chicken and turkey. Both common and alligator snapping turtles in captivity should have their diet supplemented with leafy greens. Some owners opt to feed their turtles specially formulated pellets rather than raw food.
Snapping turtles in captivity are known to eat a diet of:
- Insects (crickets, grasshoppers)
- Crustaceans (ghost shrimp, crayfish)
- Fish (minnows, guppies)
- Raw, lean meat (turkey or chicken)
- Aquatic plants (duckweed, moss)
- Leafy greens (mustard, romaine)
How to Feed a Snapping Turtle
Snapping turtles eat at dawn and dusk when they are most active. Their name is appropriate — they grab their food with a quick snapping motion. Younger snapping turtles forage for food when need be, but older turtles lie in wait in the water to surprise their prey. When snapping turtles eat other turtles, they do so by biting their heads off first, which is hypothesized to be either inefficient feeding behavior or a method of protecting their territory.Snapping turtles cannot swallow food on land, so they require an aqua-terrarium, with plenty of water but also some dry land for basking. Offer food in the water so they can swallow it.
How often to feed a snapping turtle:
- Adult snapping turtles should be fed every 2-3 days
- Offer a calcium supplement 3 times a week
- Sprinkle food with a multi-vitamin once a week
How much to feed snapping turtles:
The best way to measure how much food to give an adult snapping turtle is to use the “size of the head” method. Find a small container, like a medicine cup or bottle cap, that looks about the same size as your turtle’s head. Use that cup to measure how much food you should offer at every feeding.
To feed a snapping turtle:
- Leave bones and skin intact. When offering meat, fish, or other types of protein, leave the bones, skin, and other body parts included with the meat. In nature, a snapping turtle will hunt or scavenge whole animals, and the bones have valuable calcium and trace minerals.
- Cut food into small pieces. While snapping turtles are famous for their bite strength, they can’t chew their food like humans. They have been known to occasionally choke when trying to swallow bites of food that are too large for them.
- Observe the turtle while it eats. Especially if you have a new turtle or are new to keeping turtles, it’s important to not simply toss food in the tank and walk away. Instead, stay and watch the turtle while it eats. Watching your turtle while they eat has several benefits:
- You can make sure the turtle doesn’t choke and that food is the right size for their mouth.
- You can pay attention to what foods your snapping turtle prefers. Each turtle is individual and will enjoy some foods more than others
- You can make sure that any supplements or added nutrients are actually being eaten.
- You can note how much and how quickly your turtle eats, so you know whether you are over-or under-feeding your turtle.
- Food Avoid To Feed Snapping Turtles
- Believe it or not, your Snapping turtle will refuse to eat any food it finds tasteless and unattractive. It will consume only visually and fragrantly appealing ingredients.
- The best option is to offer your pet food it usually eats in the wild since this species won’t accept any experimenting when it comes to its meal. The first thing to do when seeing uneaten food is to make it look better.
- Snapping turtles can’t eat oversized pieces of hard food because this particular reptile doesn’t have teeth. Therefore, you need to chop and shred fruit and veggies into pieces and soak the commercial pellets before offering them.
Never give processed food to your pet since it can be harmful to its health. Forbidden ingredients include:
- Bread, crackers, and pasta
- Dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt) may cause health issues since Snapping turtles can’t digest dairy products
- Raw meat and hamburgers that quickly rotten before your pet manages to eat them
- Sausages, bacon, and salami will lead to illness because containing too many additives, salt, sugar, and artificial colors
- Chips packed with salt
Avoid offering food caught in the wild to your pet since it often contains unknown pathogens and parasites. Raw food from a reputable pet store is thoroughly checked, so you can treat your turtle with healthy fish, shrimps, and worms it will adore.