Alligator Snapping Turtle Facts on What Do Turtles Eat
Alligator Snapping Turtle (Macrochelys temminckii) and most other snapping turtle species are the largest aquatic turtles in the world. They can be characterized by their large head, and long, thick, dinosaur looking shell.
Their shell has three dorsal ridges called osteoderms (large scales) that give it the look of something you might find in prehistoric times.
Mistakes are common when trying to distinguish between the alligator snapping turtle and their cousin the common snapping turtle. Unlike the alligator snapping turtle, the common snapping turtle has a smooth carapace instead of a rows of spikes.
The average adult size of an alligator snapping turtle ranges between 16 and 32 inches with a weigh upwards of 175lbs. In general, the males tend to be larger than females.
Like most types of turtles, the alligator snapping turtle can live for a long time. Although their lifespan in the wild is largely unknown, they are thought to be able to live for as long as 200 years.
It is more likely that a 80 to 120 year lifespan is common in the wild. In captivity they usually live for 20 to 70 years.
One myth about the alligator snapping turtle is that they are violent and aggressive. In reality they are not generally prone to attacking or biting humans.
If provoked, they will of course defend themselves and are very capable of delivering a powerful bite. They can easily cause significant harm to any person who gets to close and they can quickly amputate a finger.
Alligator Snapping Turtle – Where Are They Found
Because they are the largest aquatic turtle in North America, the alligator snapping turtle tends to be found mainly in the southern states.
They’re commonly found from Eastern Texas all the way to Florida and north into other states such as Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
The alligator snapping turtle prefers to live in deeper waters such as large rivers, lakes, canals, swamps, and bayous when available. This is probably because they are larger turtles and need more room to swim.
The alligator snapping turtle is considered a threatened species even though they can be found as pets. Their status is primarily becuase they are vulnerable to habitat loss from humans through hunting and capture.
And although found as pets, due to their potential size and special needs, the alligator snapping turtle does not make a very good pet for anyone who is not an experienced aquatic turtle keeper or researcher.
What Do Turtles Eat – Alligator Snapping Turtle
The alligator snapping turtle has a unique method to hunt and capture prey.
There is a small appendage on the tip of it’s tongue called a vermiform. This vermiform looks like a worm to both humans and prey of the alligator snapping turtle.
It is useful to lure fish close by and into range of it’s powerful jaws.
They’ll hunt by lying motionless with their mouth wide open waiting for some unlucky prey to take the bait. The vermiform tongue then imitates the movements of a small worm and lures the prey directly into the turtles mouth. And then…
What Do Turtles Eat In The Wild – Alligator Snapping Turtle
As an adolescent the alligator snapping turtle tends to be opportunistic, carnivorous feeder. As mentioned above they will lay in wait, ready to ambush any unlucky prey nearby. They’ll primarily feed on:
Live Fish, Dead Fish, June Bugs, Crickets, Invertebrates, Small Amphibians, Carrion, Minnows, Snakes, Frogs, Aquatic Plans, and Small Turtles
It’s pretty much assumed that they’ll eat anything then can catch and fit in their mouth.
What Do Turtles Eat In Captivity – Alligator Snapping Turtle
So what do turtles eat in regards to the alligator snapping turtle? Well although considered a threatened species, they are still often found as pets. Both in private homes and research facilities where they’ve been found, collected, or captured depending on the circumstances.
In captivity, they’ll pretty much eat any kind of meat provided as well as various vegetables. Including:
Chicken, Bananas, Apples, Pork, Carrots, Beef, Worms, Grapes, Lettuce, Crickets, Grasshoppers, Cherries (without seeds) Fish, Etc.
Either way a mix of meats and vegetables should be included in every meal since as adults the alligator snapping turtle is an omnivore.
One thing to keep in mind is that HAND FEEDING IS VERY DANGEROUS!! DO NOT ATTEMPT!!!
An alligator snapping turtle is easily capable of removing a finger when care isn’t taken.
It’s important to remember that like most pet turtles, the alligator snapping turtle doesn’t always get 100% of their needed nutrients in the food they eat. Because of this you should always do your best to include a multi-vitamin supplement in their meals.
In captivity they will also readily eat many of the commercially available aquatic turtle foods as well.
That being said, it’s always a good idea to provide them with as varied a diet as possible to ensure good health and proper nutrition.
What Do Turtles Eat – Things To Avoid Feeding An Alligator Snapping Turtle
As with any pet, you need to do your best to know all you can when answering the question of what do turtles eat, espeically with an alligator snapping turtle so is stays as healthy as possible.
Additionally you want to keep your family safe and healthy at the same time. Having an alligator snapping turtle as a pet is a serious matter that should be considered well before it actually happens. Not only can they cause bodily harm if not handled properly, like more pet turtles they can carry diseases that wont harm them, but will make humans very sick.
Here are some helpful suggestions to have a safe and healthy home.
No Oily Or Fatty Food: Avoid giving your alligator snapping turtle any kind of fried foods. No french fries, donuts, onion rings, etc.
No Sugary Foods: No lollipops, chocolate, or other sugary items. Not only is it unhealthy for a pet turtle, these kinds of foods can pose a life threatening choking hazard for your little friend. If it chokes you don’t have the option of mouth to mouth.
No Dairy: This includes of course milk, cheese, butter, etc. Turtles don’t have the same enzymes humans do and can not properly digest lactose.
No Food Sharing: We know your turtle is your friend but avoid sharing meals and snacks with them. Many turtles, like all aquatic animals, carry salmonella bacteria. Salmonella does not affect them as it does humans.
No Kissing: No seriously, don’t kiss your turtle. Especially when it comes to the alligator snapping turtle. Yes they can be cute, but they can carry salmonella and do major harm if they bite you in the face.
No Dirty Hands: Whenever you handle a turtle, or any pet for that matter, be sure you wash your hands thoroughly with anti-bacterial soap. This will kill any germs and keep your family healthy.
Knowing What Do Turtles Eat For A Happy And Healthy Alligator Snapping Turtle
And there you have it. What do turtles eat you ask? For the alligator snapping turtle you now have a good idea of the Do’s and Don’ts for a happy and healthy pet turtle.
Like every pet, the alligator snapping turtle can be a great companion for many years if provided for properly.
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Photo Credit: Wikipedia