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Snapping Turtles in Louisiana

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snapping turtles

Louisiana is home to some of the largest snapping turtles in North America. Native to this region, the Alligator Snapping Turtle is a species of special concern and the only one of its kind in the world. These snapping turtles are impressively large. Although they are rarely seen, snapping turtles can be found in the deep, swampy waters of Louisiana. With their sharp beaks and tails and powerful claws, these turtles make for formidable opponents when defending themselves from predators. Let’s read more about snapping turtles in Louisiana and their interesting facts.

snapping turtles in louisiana

Habitat

Louisiana provides an ideal habitat for snapping turtles due to the combination of abundant water sources and plentiful vegetation. This semi-aquatic reptile can be found living in swamps, marshes, rivers, ponds, and even some ditches as well. While they spend most of their life underwater, they occasionally emerge onto land to nest or bask in the sun. The Bayou State is home to three different species of snapping turtle – the alligator snapping turtle, the common snapper, and the smooth softshell.

Lifespan

Louisiana’s snapping turtles are unique creatures. It is known that these turtles can live approximately 70 years in captivity, with some documented records of individuals living up to 87 years! Furthermore, research suggests that in the wild, they can conservatively reach a lifespan of 60 or more years under favourable environmental conditions and appropriate food sources.

snapping turtles

Size & Weight

Louisiana is home to snapping turtles of varying sizes. Some specimens can weigh up to 35 pounds, with shell sizes reaching as wide as 20 inches in diameter; fascinatingly, these land-dwelling creatures feed largely on small animals and plant matter that exist nearby water systems. The heaviest recorded specimen ever found in Louisiana weighed an impressive 81.3 pounds. This record was caught in the Ouachita River and many experts believe that the species can continue to hit larger and more impressive weights over time.

Diet

In Louisiana, snapping turtles have a diet that typically involves scavenging for their food. They often consume aquatic vegetation, but are not picky creatures and will eat fish, frogs, invertebrates, carrion, eggs and small mammals too.  Snapping turtles can also be fed pellets or shrimp if kept as pets. One study found that soft-shell turtles were observed eating aquatic birds like loons and grebes.

Colour

Snapping turtles have a unique colour palette for their shell which can be identified by locals. The top of the turtle’s shell, or carapace, is a dark brown hue with spots and stripes in shades of yellow and green. The bottom of their shell is normally lighter but still includes colours like yellow, orange, and red. The vibrant colours on the shell help the turtle blend into its surroundings. These colours make the turtles difficult to spot by potential predators so they are safer from attack. 

snapping turtles in open

Predator

The Common Snapping Turtle is an omnivore with a few predators. Since this reptile can grow very large, weighing up to 35 pounds, its main predators are alligators, humans and sometimes birds of prey. Alligators play an interesting role in that they can tip these turtles upside down so they no longer have access to their primary defence mechanism – their powerful jaws. Humans also tend to hunt them for food or collect eggs from nests for consumption. Also, some birds of prey love to eat snapping turtle eggs as their food. 

Are Snapping Turtles in Louisiana Protected

Certain states such as Louisiana have passed laws to protect snapping turtles, their status can vary from state to state. Depending on the species, it can be illegal to gather, buy, sell, and possess snapping turtles without a permit. Unfortunately, due to a number of threats such as hunting and habitat destruction, some of the species are listed as endangered and are strictly protected by authorities. In the state of Louisiana bald eagle and alligator snapping turtles are considered threatened and are primarily protected by prohibiting hunting them or illegally collecting them from their natural habitats. 

Are Snapping Turtles in Louisiana Endangered

The exact status of snapping turtle populations in Louisiana is unknown, it is certain they face a variety of threats that can lead to severe population decline. Over-collection, habitat destruction and fragmentation associated with urban developments, roads, and fisheries pose great threats to this species’ survival in the region. Luckily, several conservation measures have been implemented by local governments in order to protect the snapping turtles, including regulations on capture as well as public education initiatives to foster respect for both snappers and their habitats.

How is Snapping Turtle Useful to Biodiversity

The snapping turtle is an important species in many ecosystems around the world. Its presence helps to control the populations of aquatic vegetation, helping maintain species diversity. It serves as prey for a range of carnivorous animals and birds, adding to overall ecosystem balance. Snapping turtles are also essential for biogeochemical cycles since they transform organic materials into nutrient-rich forms that can be used by other species. Also, their role as primary consumers provides food and sustenance for other larger predators in the same environment. 

References:

https://www.nola.com/news/environment/these-huge-snapping-turtles-once-flourished-in-louisiana-now-feds-propose-protections/article_cfc1a174-4197-11ec-823a-d7a7c7cb48b9.html
http://www.louisianaherps.com/alligator-snapping-turtle-m.html
https://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/assets/Resources/Publications/Rare_Animal_Species_Fact_Sheets/Reptiles/alligator_snapping_turtle_fact_sheet.pdf

Author Profile
Jeevan Kodiyan
Zoologist | Wildlife Conservation at Animals Research

An animal enthusiast with an interest in zoology, studying the behavior and activities of animals in the wild habitat. I work on research projects related to species conservation and endangered species protection. I also leverage zoology to become an educator, educating others about the importance of protecting our natural environment and the beauty of animals in their natural habitats.

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