The common snapping turtle is the largest freshwater turtle found in Canada. It can attain a shell length of up to 50 cm (19.5 in.) and weight exceeding 15 kg (33 lb.). Its serpentine neck, massive head, muscular legs, and relatively long tail make it seem even larger. It is estimated that they can live 30 to 40 years in the wild, perhaps even longer.
These turtles consume various aquatic plants and animals, including fish, frogs, birds and small mammals. They are also scavengers, eating dead fish and drowned mammals.
Snappers are generally nocturnal. During the day, they bury themselves into the bottom mud or sand, and wait to for prey to swim by. At night, they usually are more active, foraging and pursuing their food.
Common snapping turtles become dormant during the winter. Quite often, they bury themselves into muddy bottoms of ponds for long periods of time. Mating occurs in the water, usually in early spring, and females begin to migrate toward traditional nesting areas, sometimes traveling more than 10 km (6 mi.) away. Nesting usually occurs from May to June. The females lay white round eggs, and the young usually hatch in September or early October.
Common snapping turtles are defensive if confronted on land, but in the water, they usually slip quietly away from any disturbance. They usually prefer slow-moving water with a muddy bottom and plenty of vegetation; they are found in ponds, lakes, rivers and streams.
They occur in the eastern two-thirds of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains, and in southern Canada from Nova Scotia to Saskatchewan.