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Snapping turtle dozing in East Pine Pond. Archive Photo of the Day 9/3/09: Sandy Hildreth, Saranac Lake

The Eastern Snapping Turtle can reach a size of three feet long and weigh 50 pounds. Martha Foley and Curt Stager introduce us to this large and testy reptile found throughout the eastern United States.

Martha Foley: We use to see snapping turtles on the Hudson River. We had a camp and it was a big, wide river where our camp was and there were weed beds out in the middle. We use to see gigantic turtles, I mean, tortoise-size turtles. And one year, somebody shot one and they dragged it in to shore (it was a stupid thing to do, obviously), but, you know, it wasn’t a sea turtle or anything like that, just a big old snapping turtle.

Curt Stager: Yeah, it’s amazing how big some of these get. I think, for the Northeast anyway with the common, eastern-type snapping turtle, I guess about three feet total length is a big one and maybe up to 50 pounds or something like that.

MF: Boy, this was big.

CS: There is another kind called Alligator Snappers. You find them farther south and those get way big; like 200 pound giants that are pretty scary. But even these relatively smaller ones are pretty impressive.

MF: Yeah, it bit an oar. We use to go take the boat out and look in the weed beds and the shallows and you’d see them. Obviously not a lot of them, but there was one place we’d go and there was this one turtle that seemed to hang out there that was just huge.

CS: Well, it sort of makes sense, like sharks. What we usually focus on with sharks is their big jaws and their big teeth because it’s so impressive. People talk about Snapping Turtles, even the name itself, you know, this big hook, pointed beak and stuff.

MF: We didn’t swim there.

CS: It makes sense, if you look at how they’re designed compared to a Painted Turtle, which also lives in the same habitat. If you scare a Painted Turtle or pick it up, it’ll pull into its shell pretty far in. Or if you have a Box Turtle, it’ll actually have a hinged bottom part of the shell that’ll help close up and protect it. But Snappers can’t fit into their shells.

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