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16 Snapping Turtle Predators Impacting Their Survival

Believe it or not, snapping turtles are quite efficient predators. They hunt a whole variety of animals, such as fish, small mammals, crustaceans, mussels, and even birds! Snapping turtles aren’t picky eaters and will eat any animal they can fit in their mouths — including juvenile alligators and other turtles.

Snapping turtles have few predators of their own to look out for and this is especially true of adults and subadults. While adult snappers are quite large and have amazingly tough shells, they still need to gain a bit of mass.

Until then, you’ll find a lot of snapping turtle predators targeting eggs, hatchlings, and juveniles. Let’s take a closer look at the world of young snapping turtles and the dangers they face so you can see what it’s like!

Predators of Snapping Turtle Eggs & Hatchlings

Snapping turtles do not protect or care for the eggs they lay. Once the female digs her nest and lays her eggs, then her job is done and she returns to her aquatic habitat. If a predator is able to locate the eggs, then entire nests may be lost!

The most common snapping turtle egg predators are red foxes (Vulpes fulva) and raccoons (Procyon lotor). Other predators include Virginia opossums (Didelphis virginiana), striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis), and coyotes (Canis latrans).

Sarcophagid fly larvae have also been observed consuming both developing embryos and rotten eggs. It’s a big problem for snapping turtle nests, from what collected data has shown us.

From 2000 to 2001, 100% of snapping turtle nests in Rondeau Park were destroyed within the first few days of nesting and from 2001 to 2002, about 63% to 100% of nests were destroyed by predators.

At Grafton Lake in Nova Scotia, about 23% to 47% of snapping turtle nests are destroyed by predators and in Michigan, predators destroyed about 30% to 100% of all unprotected nests.

Overall, predators were destroying a whopping average of 70% of the snapping turtles’ nests! (although some organizations like the Friends of Mississippi River are making an impact on these sorts of scenarios)

Studies conducted in New York using decoy nests showed that this would usually occur within 24 hours of nesting. By simply looking for soil disturbances which indicated that a female must have dug and buried the eggs in the location, they were finding up to 100% of snapping turtle eggs within an area.

They do not need to rely on any other scent and visual cues, as the ground disturbance in creating an egg-filled nest is already easy enough for hungry predators to spot.

Predators of eggs and hatchlings include: 

  • Virginia opossums (Didelphis virginiana)
  • Great blue herons (Ardea herodias)
  • American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
  • Bullfrogs (Lithobates catesbeianus)
  • Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides)
  • Northern water snakes (Nerodia sipedon)
  • Raccoons (Procyon lotor)
  • Red foxes (Vulpes vulpes)
  • Large birds (Aves)
  • Striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis)

1. Raccoons

  • Binomial Name: Procyon lotor
  • Geographic Range: Southern Canada, most of the United States, Central America, and northern South America
  • Mass: 4 to 23 pounds (1.8 to 10.4 kg)

These mammals are the most common snapping turtle predators and may be found throughout most of Canada and the United States.

They have even been introduced to many European countries such as Spain, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands Belgium, Austria, Czechia, Lithuania, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Russia. You can even find them in Japan!

Easily identifiable by the black mask across the eyes and a bushy, four-to-ten-ringed tail, raccoons are especially fond of areas close to streams and shorelines.

When snapping turtle eggs are available, raccoons will eat them up in large quantities, along with the eggs of other reptiles and birds.

2. American Red Foxes

  • Binomial Name: Vulpes vulpes fulva or Vulpes fulva
  • Geographic Range: throughout most of North America
  • Mass: 6.6 to 30.8 pounds (3 to 14  kg)

Another very common snapping turtle predator is the American red fox. Considered the largest true fox, they can be found across the entirety of North America from Nunavut in Canada all the way to Texas in the United States. The species can even be found in the Arctic.

A red fox is reddish in color, with hues ranging from deep reddish brown to pale yellowish red., and they’re most commonly found in open and semi-open forests, woodlands, grasslands, savannas, and croplands.

As with raccoons, red foxes will eat large amounts of snapping turtle eggs, along with any other eggs that they can find!

3. Virginia Opossums

  • Binomial Name: Didelphis virginiana
  • Geographic Range: Throughout eastern United States and southeastern Canada
  • Mass: 4.2 to 13.2 pounds (1.9 to 6  kg)

The Virginia opossum, also known as the North American opossum, is another predator that loves to find snapping turtle eggs.

The species is endemic to most of the eastern United States from the eastern coast all the way to Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, and South Dakota. The range also extends into Central America.

Opossums have thick bodies and short legs. They are usually gray, but can be black, brown, or reddish in color.

4. Great Blue Herons

  • Binomial Name: Ardea herodias
  • Geographic Range: Throughout North America
  • Mass:  pounds (2.6  kg)
  • Length: 47.2 inches (1.2 m)

Great blue herons eat both the hatchlings and eggs of snapping turtles and are found throughout the snapping turtles’ range. Within North America, Blue Herons may be found from southeastern Alaska and southern Canada to Mexico.

It is even found in northern South America, especially in northern Venezuela and northern Colombia.

5. American Crows

  • Binomial Name: Corvus brachyrhynchos
  • Geographic Range: throughout North America
  • Mass:  1 pound (458 grams)

The American crow is found throughout North America. Its range includes Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Saint Pierre and Miquelon.

The bird is moderately sized and intelligent and as its range overlaps with that of the snapping turtle, the turtle’s eggs are definitely on the menu!

6. American Bullfrogs

  • Binomial Name: Lithobates catesbeianus
  • Geographic Range: throughout eastern  United States and southern Canada
  • Mass:  1.1 pounds (500 grams)

American bullfrogs are endemic to the eastern and central United States, as well as several provinces in Canada — namely southern Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Found near or inside freshwater bodies such as bogs, rivers, ponds, and lakes, Lithobates catesbeianus is a predator of snapper hatchlings.

7. Largemouth Bass

  • Binomial Name: Micropterus salmoides
  • Geographic Range: throughout eastern  United States and southeastern Canada
  • Length: 27.6 inches (70 cm)

The largemouth bass is endemic to the Mississippi River, Hudson Bay-Red River, and St.Lawrence-Great Lakes systems, and its range includes most of the eastern United States and Canada. It has also been introduced to many other waterbodies around the world.

These fish like to prey on snapper hatchlings, hunting them within quiet, warm waters with soft bottoms and a lot of aquatic plants. which they both inhabit.

8. Northern Water Snakes

  • Binomial Name: Nerodia sipedon
  • Geographic Range: throughout eastern  United States and southeastern Canada
  • Length: 1.35 meters

The species is endemic to most of the eastern United States, with its range extending as far west as South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Colorado. The watersnake can also be found in the adjacent southern provinces of Canada, including Ontario and Quebec.

This snake prefers freshwater habitats, although they may sometimes be found in saltwater or brackish habits, as well. Found in swamps, bogs, marshes, reservoirs, ponds, oxbows, lakes, canals, rivers, and creeks, these reptiles are predators of snapping turtle hatchlings.

9. Striped Skunks

  • Binomial Name: Mephitis mephitis
  • Geographic Range: most of North America
  • Mass:  1.5 to 13.9 pounds (700 grams to 6.3  kg)

Striped Skunks may be found throughout most of North America, and their range extends from southern Quebec, Hudson Bay, and the southwestern Northwest Territories in Canada to northern Tamaulipas, northern Durango, and Baja California in Mexico.

Sometimes found near human settlements, they are most frequently spotted in woodlands, bottomland woods, and meadows. As the striped skunk’s geographic range overlaps with that of snapping turtles, these skunks are a danger to the turtle’s nest and the eggs inside.

Adult Snapping Turtle Predators

Adult snapping turtles have very few predators. On land, adults tend to react aggressively, striking at potential predators with an impressive and effective reach. Common snappers have very long necks, as well, so any animal attempting to grab them from behind will be in for a surprise.

Underwater, they prefer a more stealthy approach, simply fleeing and hiding in the sediment at the approach of any potential predators.

The main predators of adult snapping turtles are humans, as they are often sought out for making delicacies such as ‘Snapper Soup’.

Some animals known to prey on adult snappers include Mink (Mustela vison), and Northern River Otter (Lontra canadensis). Minks prey on small adults and river otters prey on hibernating snappers.

Other adult snapping turtle predators include alligator snapping turtles  (Macrochelys temminckii), coyotes (Canis latrans), American black bears (Ursus americanus), and American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis).

In Summary, the predators of adult snapping turtles are:

  • Humans (Homo sapiens)
  • Mink (Mustela vison)
  • Northern River Otters (Lontra canadensis)
  • Alligator snapping turtles  (Macrochelys temminckii)
  • Coyotes (Canis latrans)
  • American black bears (Ursus americanus)
  • American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis)

10. Humans

  • Binomial Name: Homo sapiens
  • Geographic Range: Throughout the world

Humans are the main predators of adult snapping turtles and across the United States, the collection of common snapping turtles is allowed although there are regulations and limits in many places. You may need a license to collect them, for instance, and some states prohibit collection outside open seasons.

The hunting and collection of alligator snapping turtles, however, is prohibited across the United States. Alligator snapping turtles are considered to be Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. and G3 (Vulnerable) on the NatureServe Conservation Status Rank.

Can a snapping turtle kill you? Check out the answer when you’re done here!

11. American alligators

  • Binomial Name: Alligator mississippiensis
  • Geographic Range: southeastern United States
  • Mass: 150 kg (330.4 pounds)

The American alligator is endemic to southeastern North America. Its range includes southern Texas, southeastern Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Florida to North Carolina. They are also found in Mississippi.

Found in spring runs, canals, bayous, swamps, rivers, lakes, ponds, and marshes, these massive reptiles are quite well-equipped to the task of hunting adult snappers.

12. Minks

  • Binomial Name: Neogale vison
  • Geographic Range: North America
  • Mass: 3.5 pounds (1.6 kilograms)

Minks are endemic to most of North America, with a wide range extending from Canada all the way to southern America. The species have also been introduced to several European countries including Spain, Belarus, Norway, and Iceland.

Minks are semiaquatic and spend a lot of time in water, where they like to frequent forested wetlands that provide a lot of cover. While usually brown, they can be almost black, grey, or even beige, and their long bodies are streamlined for more efficient swimming and hunting in the water.

As such, they can and do prey upon adult and subadult snappers from time to time with very good odds of success.

13. Northern River Otters

  • Binomial Name: Lontra canadensis
  • Geographic Range: North America north of Mexico
  • Mass: 30 pounds (13.6 kilograms)

River otters are endemic to much of North America, with a range encompassing all of Canada, Alaska, and the continental United States.

Semi-aquatic mammals, they spend most of their time in or near water and are known to prey on subadult and adult snappers.

14. Alligator Snapping Turtles

  • Binomial Name: Macrochelys temminckii
Alligator snapping turtle in a small pond

One of the animals that prey on snapping turtles is.. well, other snapping turtles! To be more specific, the Alligator snapping turtle is well-known for dining on other snapping turtles that it happens upon from time to time.

Want to find out more about how Alligator snapping turtles compare to Common snapping turtles? We’ve got you covered!

15. Coyotes 

  • Binomial Name: Canis latrans
  • Geographic Range: Much of North America
  • Mass: 40 pounds (18.1 kg)

Coyotes may be found across much of North America, although they were originally limited to central and western North America.  These days, they can be found as far north as Alaska and as far south as Costa Rica. They can also be found in Georgia and Florida!

These adaptable canids live in an expensive array of habitats, including prairies, heavily forested areas, grasslands, shrublands, and woodlands. In areas where snapping turtles are present, coyotes are very dangerous, as these clever mammals are one of the few animals that feed on adult snapping turtles.

16. American black bears

  • Binomial Name: Ursus americanus
  • Geographic Range: Much of North America
  • Mass: 441 pounds (200 kilograms)

Black bears can be found throughout much of North America, from north-central Alaska through Canada, and all the way down to northern Mexico. Excellent swimmers, these bears can use their powerful jaws and claws to dine on any adult snappers that they can catch.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main predators of the snapping turtle?

The main predators of adult snapping turtles are humans, who collect common snapping turtles to make delicacies like ‘Snapper soup’.

For snapper eggs and hatchlings, however, the main predators are red foxes (Vulpes fulva) and raccoons (Procyon lotor).

What attacks snapping turtles?

Many different animals will attack adult snapping turtles, with some common examples including humans, minks, northern river otters, coyotes, American black bears, and American alligators.

Snapping turtle hatchlings and eggs are also vulnerable to a number of predators, including Virginia opossums, great blue herons, American crows, bullfrogs, largemouth bass, northern, water snakes, raccoons, red foxes, birds, and striped skunks.

What does a snapping turtle do to survive?

Snapping turtles have powerful bites as well as thick, effective shells for armor, but stealth is probably their biggest survival factor. Hiding in the sediment of a river, they can evade larger predators and easily hunt smaller ones as they like.

Conclusion

Adult snapping turtles have few predators, as they are highly aggressive and fight back when attacked. This behavior, coupled with their large size and rough shell, means that most large carnivores tend to avoid them – although humans do like to make them into soup!

Some predators of snapping turtle hatchlings and eggs include large birds (Aves), raccoons (Procyon lotor),  striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis), red foxes (Vulpes fulva), coyotes (Canis latrans), and Virginia opossums (Didelphis virginiana).

Sub-adults and adult snappers do have to deal with their fair share of predators such as otters, alligators, and clever coyotes, but at the bottom of the river and hidden in murky depths, there’s a good chance that they’ll get to be the predator- not the prey!

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