Chelydra serpentina
(Linnaeus 1758)

kĕl-ī-dră — sĕr-pĕn-tē-nă

An adult Snapping Turtle from Lincoln County, Kansas. © Ken Brunson.
An adult Snapping Turtle from Lincoln County, Kansas. © Kevin Urbanek.
A young Snapping Turtle from Douglas County, Kansas. Image © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.

The Snapping Turtle is the only turtle in Kansas with a saw-tooth keeled tail, the tail is often as long as the carapace. The carapace ranges in color from dark brown to tan with radiating dark and light lines on each scute. As a snapping turtle grows, the shell often becomes covered with mud and algae and the coloration and patterns are obfuscated. Their neck, legs, and tail are tan to yellow while the top of the head is darker in color. Their neck and limbs are cover with fleshy tubercles. The plastron is yellow and much smaller than the carapace. Snapping Turtles are unable to withdraw their head, limbs, and tail into their shells at the same time, as many other turtles can. The feet are webbed and have formidable claws.
Adults normally 203-360 mm (8-14 inches) in carapace length; largest specimen from Kansas: male (FHSM 13387) from Reno County collected by Jay E. Mattison and Allen Andresen on 16 October 2006 with carapace length of 406 mm (16 inches); turtle weighed 20.5 kilograms (45 pounds), heaviest specimen recorded from state; maximum carapace length throughout range: 19 3/8 inches; maximum weight known (captive specimen): 86 pounds (Conant and Collins, 1998).

Records mapped in Collins (1994) for Cloud, Butler, Geary, and Jackson counties are unknown and therefore not plotted. Records mapped in Collins (1994) for Sumner County (KU 20519) is too imprecise to plot (county only). Eight specimens are known from Ottawa County (BYU 313, 1239, 1241-6) but only to county.
All types of freshwater habitats, especially those with soft mud bottom and abundant aquatic vegetation or submerged brush and logs. In brackish water in some areas. Mostly a bottom dweller. Hibernates singly or in groups in streams, lakes, ponds, or marshes; in bottom mud, in or under submerged logs or debris, under overhanging bank, or in muskrat tunnel; often in shallow water; sometimes in anoxic sites (Brown and Brooks 1994, Herman et al. 1995). Sometimes basks out of water, especially younger individuals and in far north.

Locality Dot Map:
The brown shaded areas () show the boundaries of properties in public or institutional ownership that contain ecological resources that merit some level of protection (KBS file).
(, Museum Voucher) (, Observation) (, Literature Record). Export Google Earth (.kml)
Open icons indicate questionable records; Click on a marker to view details.
  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 437 Total Records 
  • 284 Museum Vouchers 
  • 153 Other Observations 
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences): Some occurrences indicated below may be too imprecise to map.
Allen (4); Anderson (18); Atchison (4); Barber (10); Barton (4); Bourbon (8); Brown (2); Butler (5); Chase (2); Chautauqua (3); Cherokee (21); Cheyenne (1); Clark (4); Clay (1); Coffey (5); Comanche (3); Cowley (15); Crawford (11); Dickinson (2); Doniphan (10); Douglas (21); Edwards (2); Elk (4); Ellis (21); Ellsworth (2); Finney (2); Ford (1); Franklin (11); Geary (1); Gove (3); Graham (1); Grant (1); Greenwood (8); Harper (7); Harvey (1); Jackson (1); Jefferson (2); Jewell (1); Johnson (4); Kearney (1); Kingman (6); Kiowa (5); Labette (7); Leavenworth (2); Lincoln (1); Linn (4); Logan (4); Lyon (6); Marion (1); Marshall (8); McPherson (3); Meade (9); Miami (2); Mitchell (1); Montgomery (7); Morris (2); Morton (2); Nemaha (1); Neosho (8); Ness (1); Osage (2); Osborne (1); Ottawa (8); Pawnee (7); Phillips (2); Pottawatomie (2); Pratt (9); Rawlins (3); Reno (5); Republic (2); Rice (6); Riley (5); Rooks (1); Rush (1); Russell (6); Saline (4); Scott (2); Sedgwick (10); Seward (8); Shawnee (5); Sheridan (1); Sherman (3); Stafford (2); Sumner (7); Trego (5); Unknown (6); Wabaunsee (3); Wallace (1); Washington (5); Wilson (2); Woodson (2); Wyandotte (2);

Natural History:
They are slow-moving on land and appear short-tempered, standing their ground and attempting lunging strikes (much to the detriment of their relations with people). They are highly aquatic, seldom bask, but are often spotted when their snout and eyes break the water’s surface as they stealthily come up for a breath of air and to see what is happening above water. They are adept swimmers but, even so, if the water is clear enough, they are often seen crawling along the bottom of the ponds and streams they live in.
Eggs are laid mostly in the second half of May and in June. Clutch size averages 20-35 and sometimes exceeds 100. Hatchlings emerge in 2-4 months (August-September). Females are sexually mature in about 7 years. The mean age of nesting females is estimated at 33-40 years. 
Burt and Hoyle (1935) reported that on 9 August 1933, Miss Virginia Stuber found 14 eggs of this species in the mud at the edge of Black creek, near Winfield, Cowley county, Kansas. The mass of eggs was drying out, but there had been sufficient moisture present for their development. All of the shells were "pipped," but the young snappers were dead in six of the eggs. Those in the other eight hatched on the same day as they were found..
Common Snapping Turtle exhibit temperature dependent sex determination. Those incubated between 71-77 deg F produce predominately males, while cooler or warmer temperatures produce females.

Occurrence Activity:
Common and widespread in eastern North America; tolerates disturbed habitats; readily colonizes newly created habitats; no significant threats. Usually common where found. Numbers can be very high in some habitats.
Snapping Turtles may be taken year-round. Daily creel limit is eight turtles, single species or in combination (with Spiny Softshells and/or Smooth Softshells). Possession limit is three creel limits. A valid fishing license is required (unless exempt). Legal equipment: hand, hook and line, setline, hand dip net, seine, turtle trap, or gig.

1758 Linné, Carl von (=Linneaus). Systema Naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis 10th Edition, Volume 1, L. Salvius, Stockholm. iv + 826pp.
1914 Dyche, Lewis L. Enemies of fish. Pages 145-158 in Ponds, Pond Fish and Pond Fish Culture State Department Fish and Game Bulletin No. 1, Kansas State Printing Office, Topeka. pp.
1925 Linsdale, Jean M. Land Vertebrates of a Limited Area in Eastern Kansas. Thesis. University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. 312pp.
1927 Linsdale, Jean M. Amphibians and reptiles of Doniphan County, Kansas. Copeia 1927(164):75-81
1928 Burt, Charles E. Some distributional and ecological records of Kansas reptiles. Transactions of the Academy of Science St. Louis 26():186-208
1929 Taylor, Edward H. List of reptiles and batrachians of Morton County, Kansas, reporting species new to the state fauna. University of Kansas Science Bulletin 19(6):63-65
1932 Gloyd, Howard K. The herpetological fauna of the Pigeon Lake Region, Miami County, Kansas. Papers of the Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan 15():389-408
1933 Taylor, Edward H. Observations on the courtship of turtles. University of Kansas Science Bulletin 21(6):269-271
1934 Brennan, Lawrence A. A check list of the amphibians and reptiles of Ellis County, Kansas. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():189-191
1934 Burt, Charles E. and W. L. Hoyle. Additional records of the reptiles of the central prairie region of the United States. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():193-216
1935 Brennan, Lawrence A. Notes on the Distribution of Amphibia and Reptilia of Ellis County, Kansas. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 114pp.
1935 Burt, Charles E. Further records of the ecology and distribution of amphibians and reptiles in the middle west. American Midland Naturalist 16(3):311-366
1935 Burt, Charles E. and William L. Hoyle. Additional records of the reptiles of the central prairie region of the United States Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():193-216
1937 Brennan, Lawrence A. A study of the habitat of reptiles and amphibians of Ellis County, Kansas. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 40():341-347
1937 Grant, Chapman. Herpetological notes from Central Kansas. American Midland Naturalist 18(3):370-372
1956 Clarke, Robert F. Identification of Kansas turtles. Kansas School Naturalist 2(4):1-3
1956 Clarke, Robert F. Turtles in Kansas. Kansas School Naturalist 2(4):1-15
1962 Gish, Charles D. The Herpetofauna of Ellis County, Kansas. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 34pp.
1963 Hibbard, Claude W. The presence of Macroclemys and Chelydra in the rexroad fauna from the upper Pliocene of Kansas. Copeia 1963(4):708-709
1976 Caldwell, Janalee P. and Gregory. Glass. Vertebrates of the Woodson County State Fishing Lake and Game Management Area. Pages 62-76 in Preliminary inventory of the biota of Woodson County State Fishing Lake and Game Management Area. Report No. 5. State Biological Survey of Kansas, Lawrence. pp.
1977 Knight, James L. and Joseph T. Collins. The amphibians and reptiles of Cheyenne County, Kansas, Report Number 15. Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence. 19pp.
1979 Rundquist, Eric M. Herps observed or collected during the first three months of 1979. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (30):42893
1980 Clarke, Robert F. Herptiles and fishes of the western Arkansas River in Kansas. United States Army Corps of Engineers, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 55pp.
1985 Capron, Marty. The quest for Kansas snappers. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (61):16-18
1988 Ernst, Carl H., J. Whitfield Gibbons and Susan S. Novak. Chelydra. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (419):1-4
1988 Gibbons, J. Whitfield, Susan S. Novak and Carl H. Ernst. Chelydra serpentina. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (420):1-4
1989 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 1988. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (75):15-18
1991 Collins, Joseph T. and Suzanne L. Collins. Reptiles and Amphibians of the Cimarron National Grasslands, Morton County, Kansas. U. S. Forest Service, Elkhart, Kansas. 60pp.
1991 Fitch, Henry S. Reptiles and amphibians of the Kansas ecological reserves. Pages 71-74 in Multidisciplinary Guidebook 4. Kansas Academy of Science, Lawrence. pp.
1991 Gress, Robert J. Snake predation on nestling Eastern Phoebes followed by turtle predation on snake. Kansas Ornithological Society Bulletin 42(3):29
1992 Edds, David R. Population status and incidence of anatomical abnormalities in semiaquatic turtles of the Walnut and lower Arkansas river basins. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt. 58pp.
1993 Collins, Joseph T. and Suzanne L. Collins. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas. Third Edition. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Lawrence. 397pp.
1994 Shipman, Paul A., David R. Edds, and Douglas Blex. Macroclemys temminckii (alligator snapping turtle) and Chelydra serpentina (common snapping turtle). Agnostic behavior . Herpetological Review 25(1):24-25
1994 Shipman, Paul A., David R. Edds, and Douglas Blex. Natural history notes. Macroclemys temminckii and Chelydra serpentina. Herpetological Review 25():24-25
1996 Miller, Larry L. Many amphibian and reptile species identified during KHS 1996 fall field trip to Wabaunsee County. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (106):2-3
1996 Miller, Larry L. Third graders conduct amphibian and reptile field study. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (106):15
1996 Phillips, C. A., W. W. Dimmick, and J. L. Carr Conservation genetics of the common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) Conservation Biology 10():397-405
1997 Sites, J. W., Jr., and K. A. Crandall Testing species boundaries in biodiversity studies Conservation Biology 11():1289-1297
1998 Walker, D., and J. C. Avise Principles of phylogeography as illustrated by freshwater and terrestrial turtles in the southeastern United States Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 29():23-58
2000 Van Doren, Mark D. and Curtis J. Schmidt. A herpetological survey of the Fort Larned National Historic Site, Pawnee County, Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (120):8-11
2001 Taggart, Travis W. The KHS 2001 spring field trip: A rainy rendezvous. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (124):43084
2002 Riedle, J. Daren and A. Hynek. Amphibian and reptile inventory of the Kansas Army Ammunition Plant, Labette County, Kansas. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (2):18-20
2002 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the spring 2002 KHS field trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (3):6-7
2004 Delisle, Jennifer M. and William H. Busby Biological inventory for vertebrates at Fort Larned National Historic Site of the southern plains network. Natural Heritage Inventory, Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence. 61pp.
2004 Gubanyi, Marla A. Geographic distribution. Chelydra serpentina. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (12):17
2004 Pisani, George R. Life history. Chelydra serpentina. Mating behavior. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (11):15
2006 Taggart, Travis W. Addendum report to biological inventory of the sandsage prairie near Holcomb, Kansas. Sunflower Electric Cooperative, Hays, Kansas. 31pp.
2006 Taggart, Travis W. Distribution and status of Kansas herpetofauna in need of information. State Wildlife Grant T7. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt. vii + 106pp.
2007 Taggart, Travis W. A biological inventory of the Sunflower Electric Site near Holcomb, Kansas. Journal of Kansas Herpetology 23():11-16
2010 Miller, Larry L. 2010 Investigation of the Checkered Garter Snake in Kansas with notes on other Amphibians, Reptiles, and Turtles encountered. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt, Kansas. 31pp.
2012 Rohweder, Megan R. Spatial conservation prioritization of Kansas for terrestrial vertebrates. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 151pp.
2016 Pittman, Galen L., Henry S. Fitch, and W. Dean Kettle Vertebrate animals on the Fitch Natural History Reservation (1948-2002) Kansas Biological Survey Report Number 188, Lawrence. 48pp.
Account Last Updated:
11/19/2018 2:22:55 PM

Travis W. Taggart © 2019 — Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Fort Hays State University