Chelydra serpentina 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Reptilia Testudines Chelydridae

Scientific Name: Chelydra serpentina (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common Name(s):
English Snapping Turtle, Common Snapping Turtle, North American Snapping Turtle
Chelydra osceola Stejneger, 1918
Testudo serpentina Linnaeus, 1758
Taxonomic Notes: Two subspecies (Chelydra serpentina serpentina (Linnaeus, 1758) and C. s. osceola Stejneger, 1918) were recognized until osceola was synonymized with serpentina by Shaffer et al. (2008), based on lack of significant genetic differentiation. Phillips et al. (1996) removed the former subspecies rossignoni and acutirostris by elevating these to species level, based on genetic differentiation.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2010-08-02
Assessor(s): van Dijk, P.P.
Reviewer(s): Horne, B.D., Mittermeier, R.A., Philippen, H.-D., Quinn, H.R., Rhodin, A.G.J., Shaffer, H.B. & Vogt, R.C
While the Snapping Turtle is widely exploited and impacted by a wide variety of other factors, the species is adaptable and widespread, and has a relatively high reproductive potential. Local declines have been documented, but overall the species does not approach a 30 percent range-wide decline over three generations (likely around 50 years), nor is it likely to approach this level in the near future. As such, the species is assessed as Least Concern.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Chelydra serpentina ranges throughout North America east of the Rocky Mountains, occurring northwards as far as the Great Lakes region and Nova Scotia, and southwards as far as Florida and the Nueces river (Texas) (Iverson 1992, Ernst and Lovich 2009). Feral turtles have been recorded from California (US), Japan, the Netherlands, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.
Countries occurrence:
Canada (Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Québec, Saskatchewan); United States (Alabama, Arizona - Introduced, Arkansas, California - Introduced, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada - Introduced, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon - Introduced, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming)
China; Japan; Taiwan, Province of China
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):2000
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Chelydra serpentina is widely distributed across a variety of habitats. It is never the numerically dominant turtle species, but it usually represents about 2–12% of the total number of turtles in trapping studies. Given its large body size, at its reported densities of 1.2–49 animals or 19–166 kg per hectare of suitable habitat, its biomass and presumably its ecological significance are substantial.

In Michigan, Snapping Turtles were intensively trapped for 2–3 years in the 1980s, greatly reducing populations. By 2009 populations were approaching pre-impact levels, indicating a 25–30 year recovery period after depletion (J. Harding pers comm. Aug 2009).
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Chelydra serpentina inhabits almost any type of water body, from rivers, lakes and reservoirs to marshes, temporary ponds, hill streams and tidal creeks. It ranges from tidally-influenced lowlands to 2,000 m altitude.

Snapping Turtles feed on a wide variety of animal and plant matter, and undergo extensive scavenging activities. At reported densities of 1.2–49 animals or 19–166 kg per hectare of suitable habitat, its biomass and presumably its ecological significance are substantial.

Males reach 49.4 cm carapace length (CL), females 36.6 cm CL. Maturity is reached at at 4–6 yrs and 18–19 cm CL in males, and at about 10–12 (range 9–18) years / 20–22 (19–29) cm CL in females. Longevity 25–30 years (max 40 yrs). They usually produce a single clutch of 25–45 eggs (number of eggs increases with latitude) (Ernst and Lovich 2009). Generation time apparently has not been calculated. Incubation commonly takes 75–95 days. Hatchlings measure about 29 mm on average (range 16–38 mm).

[Information taken from reviews by Aresco et al. 2006, Steyermark et al. 2008, Ernst and Lovich 2009].
Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Chelydra serpentina is widely collected for local, subsistence collection as well as commercial trade for local, national and international consumption. Farming efforts for the species are indicated but details are not available. Juveniles are traded as pets in moderate numbers.

Collection of Snapping Turtles from the wild, and captive production in turtle farms, for export to East Asia increased substantially in recent years, from about 10,000 animals declared as exported from the USA in 1999, to over 300,000 annually in recent years.

LEMIS database - total recorded export numbers:

1999:  10,053
2000:  18,486
2001:  38,911
2002:  63,644
2003:  129,683
2004:  141,544
2005:  316,500
2006:  377,408
2007:  316,093
2008:  558,491

Available data do not allow differentiation of farmed vs. wild-collected trade volumes.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Chelydra serpentina is widely exploited, in some areas at the northern limits of occurrence to the degree that populations have declined significantly. As a result, Canada and many states in the U.S. have brought the species under various degrees of regulation or legislation to manage exploitation and trade, with a regulated or unrestricted commercial offtake permitted in about half the states in which the species occurs. Collection of Snapping Turtles from the wild, and captive production in turtle farms, for export to East Asia increased substantially in recent years, from about 10,000 animals declared as exported from the USA in 1999 to over 300,000 annually in recent years (LEMIS database - total recorded export numbers: 1999 – 10,053; 2000 – 18,486; 2001 – 38,911; 2002 – 63,644; 2003 – 129,683; 2004 – 141,544; 2005 – 316,500; 2006 – 377,408; 2007 – 316,093; 2008 – 558,491; available data do not allow differentiation of farmed vs. wild-collected trade volumes).

While habitat loss and degradation likely affect individuals and populations, Snapping Turtles are adaptable and mobile and are unlikely to be threatened by habitat change processes.

The impact of 'subsidized' predators (i.e., unnaturally large populations of predators subsidized by easily available resources near human settlements) is generally unquantified but may be significant.

The impact of pollution, particularly of pesticides, industrial chemicals, and heavy metals, on Snapping Turtles appears to be sub-lethal at worst, to the point that snappers are a recognized biomonitoring species to monitor accumulation of pollutants in aquatic ecosystems.

Road-kill and other casual human-induced mortality occurs, but it is not clear whether this represents an overall threat to the species in combination with other impacts.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Chelydra serpentina is subject to a variety of state legislation, regulations and management efforts in Canada and the United States.

Capture of the species from the wild is prohibited in Michigan and a number of other states, capture is permitted under regulation (size and/or bag limits, closed seasons, area restrictions, gear restrictions, restrictions on commercial use, etc.) in Alabama, Maryland, New York, Texas and several other states, and capture is unregulated in a few state. 

Throughout the United States, trade in the species is restricted to animals over four inches CL, reducing the casual pet trade and making turtles under four inches CL available only for educational purposes

The Snapping Turtle occurs in a substantial number of protected areas, both public and private.

Errata [top]

Errata reason: An errata assessment is required to generate a revised PDF without the range map which had been included in error; no range map was available when this assessment was originally published.

Citation: van Dijk, P.P. 2012. Chelydra serpentina (errata version published in 2016). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T163424A97408395. . Downloaded on 21 September 2018.
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