Chelydra serpentina    (Linnaeus, 1758)

Snapping Turtle 

MN Status:
Federal Status:


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Minnesota range map
Map Interpretation
North American range map
Map Interpretation

  Basis for Former Listing

The Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) occurs throughout the eastern United States and southern Canada. It is found in a wide variety of aquatic habitats throughout Minnesota. Despite its widespread occurrence, several factors prompted concern for the Snapping Turtle's status in Minnesota and led to its listing as a special concern species in 1984. The major factor is the unknown and possibly detrimental effects of commercial harvest on local populations. Snapping Turtles are harvested for their meat and used for human consumption. The Minnesota DNR allows licensees to take up to three adults, provided that the carapace length is greater than 30.5 cm (12 in.). Because females are long-lived and reproduce for 5-10 years (sometimes longer) once they obtain a minimum carapace length of 25 cm (10 in.), there is the potential that intense harvesting may significantly affect local breeding populations. Harvest figures are also high in early spring and late autumn when Snapping Turtles are together in communal hibernacula. These areas are susceptible to over-trapping.

The effect of environmental contaminants is an additional concern. Helwig and Hora (1983) found high levels of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in the fat of Snapping Turtles residing in the Mississippi River below the Twin Cities. The effect of these contaminants on the turtles' reproductive capacity is unknown. The Snapping Turtle was listed as a special concern species in 1984.

  Basis for Delisting

Changes were made in 2004 to commercial turtle harvest rules in order to address some of the concerns related to turtle harvesting and unintentional drowning. Turtle licenses are now restricted to Minnesota residents, the number of traps that can be used is limited, and a moratorium was placed on the sale of new licenses. If a person held a turtle license prior to the 2004 rule change, they were permitted to renew it, and can pass their license down one generation to their children upon approval from the DNR commissioner. Licensees must keep a daily log of the location of traps and the number of turtles they harvest must be submitted monthly during the trapping season, which runs March-November. In light of the 2004 changes made to the commercial turtle harvest rules, listing the Snapping Turtle as a special concern species is no longer necessary. The Snapping Turtle was delisted in 2013.

  References and Additional Information

Breckenridge, W. J. 1944. Reptiles and amphibians of Minnesota. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota. 202 pp.

Conant, R., and J. T. Collins. 1998. A field guide to reptiles and amphibians of eastern and central North America. Third edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, New York. 616 pp.

Ernst, C. H., R. W. Barbour, and J. E. Lovich. 1994. Turtles of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press Washington, D.C. xxxviii + 578 pp.

Hammer, D. A. 1969. Parameters of a marsh Snapping Turtle population, Lacreek Refuge, South Dakota. Journal of Wildlife Management 33:995-1005.

Harding, J. H. 1997. Amphibians and reptiles of the Great Lakes Region. The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, Michigan. xvi + 378 pp.

Helwig, D. D. and M. E. Hora. 1983. Polychlorinated biphenyl, mercury, and cadmium concentrations in Minnesota Snapping Turtles. Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 30:186-190.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 2012. Statement of need and reasonableness. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Division of Ecological and Water Resources. St. Paul, Minnesota. 337 pp.

Obbard, M. E., and R. J. Brooks. 1980. Nesting migrations of the Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentine). Herpetologica 36:158-162.

Obbard, M. E., and R. J. Brooks. 1981. A radio-telemetry and mark-recapture study of activity of the Common Snapping Turtle, Chelydra serpentine. Copeia 1981:630-637.

Oldfield, B., and J. J. Moriarty. 1994. Amphibians and reptiles native to Minnesota. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota. 237 pp.

Pappas, M. J., J. Congdon, and A. Pappas. 2001. Weaver Bottoms, 2001 turtle survey; management and conservation concerns. Report submitted to the Nongame Wildlife Program, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Unpaged.

Petokas, P. J., and M. M. Alexander. 1980. The nesting of Chelydra serpentine in northern New York. Journal of Herpetology 14:239-244.

Vogt, R. C. 1981. Natural history of amphibians and reptiles of Wisconsin. Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 205 pp.

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