How to catch snapping turtles? – 10 easy steps to take

Interested in learning how to catch snapping turtles? These ancient-looking creatures with their powerful jaws are fascinating, to say the least. Whether you’re a seasoned wildlife enthusiast or a newcomer looking for an adventure, understanding the ins and outs of snapping turtle capture is crucial.

In this guide, we’ll dive into the techniques, tools, and tips for safely and effectively catching these intriguing reptiles. So, let’s embark on this exciting journey and discover the art of how to catch snapping turtles.

Understanding Snapping Turtles

How to catch snapping turtles

Snapping turtles are fascinating creatures, and they’re known for their large size, aggressive behavior, and powerful jaws. Here’s a breakdown to help you understand them better:

  1. Species: Snapping turtles belong to the genus Chelydra and are found primarily in freshwater habitats throughout North America. The common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) and the alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii) are the two main species.
  2. Appearance: They have a distinctive appearance with a large, pointed head, long tail, and rough, ridged shell. Common snapping turtles typically have a more streamlined appearance compared to the bulkier alligator snapping turtles. Their shells can range in color from dark brown to olive green.
  3. Habitat: Snapping turtles inhabit various freshwater habitats such as lakes, ponds, rivers, and marshes. They prefer shallow, slow-moving waters with plenty of vegetation and muddy bottoms where they can bury themselves.
  4. Behavior: Snapping turtles are solitary creatures and are primarily active during the warmer months. They spend much of their time submerged in water, using their powerful jaws to ambush prey such as fish, amphibians, insects, and even small mammals. Despite their aggressive reputation, they are generally not a threat to humans unless provoked.
  5. Reproduction: Female snapping turtles typically lay their eggs in nests dug in sandy or gravelly areas near water. They may travel significant distances from their usual habitats to find suitable nesting sites. The eggs hatch after several weeks, and the hatchlings instinctively make their way to the water.
  6. Conservation: Snapping turtles face various threats, including habitat loss, pollution, and being hit by vehicles while crossing roads during nesting season. Some populations are also impacted by overharvesting for the pet trade or for consumption in some cultures. Conservation efforts focus on protecting their habitats, reducing road mortality, and raising awareness about the importance of these fascinating reptiles.

Understanding snapping turtles helps us appreciate their role in the ecosystem and the need to conserve their habitats for future generations.

How to catch snapping turtles – 10 easy steps to take

Catching snapping turtles requires caution and proper technique to avoid injury to both yourself and the turtle. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to catch them safely:

  1. Gather Necessary Equipment:
    • Thick gloves: Protect your hands from the turtle’s sharp claws and powerful jaws.
    • Sturdy net or trap: Choose a net with a long handle or a trap specifically designed for catching turtles.
  2. Locate the Turtle:
    • Look for snapping turtles in their natural habitats such as lakes, ponds, rivers, or marshes. They often bask near the water’s edge or swim just below the surface.
  3. Approach Carefully:
    • Move slowly and quietly to avoid startling the turtle.
    • If you’re using a net, position yourself so you can reach the turtle without scaring it away.
  4. Use a Trap (Optional):
    • If you’re using a trap, bait it with fish, chicken, or other meaty food items that snapping turtles are attracted to. Place the trap in the water near where you’ve seen the turtle.
  5. Capture the Turtle:
    • If using a net, carefully lower it into the water behind the turtle and scoop it up from underneath.
    • With gloves on, grasp the turtle firmly by the back of the shell, avoiding its head and tail.
  6. Handle with Care:
    • Be cautious when handling snapping turtles, as they can bite and scratch aggressively if they feel threatened.
    • Hold the turtle away from your body to prevent it from reaching you with its long neck.
  7. Secure the Turtle:
    • Once captured, place the turtle in a secure container such as a large bucket or bin with a lid. Ensure there is enough water to keep the turtle moist but not so much that it can escape.
  8. Transport Safely:
    • If you need to transport the turtle, ensure the container is secure and well-ventilated. Avoid overcrowding if transporting multiple turtles.
  9. Release or Keep Responsibly:
    • If catching turtles for research or relocation purposes, release them back into their natural habitat once you’ve finished.
    • If keeping a snapping turtle as a pet, make sure you understand the legal requirements and have the proper facilities to care for it long-term.
  10. Dispose of Traps Properly:
    • If you used a trap, be sure to retrieve it from the water after catching the turtle to prevent unintended harm to other wildlife.

Remember, always prioritize the safety and well-being of both yourself and the turtle when catching snapping turtles. If you’re inexperienced or uncomfortable handling them, consider seeking assistance from a professional or experienced individual.

Essential tools for catching snapping turtles

When catching snapping turtles, having the right tools is essential for ensuring your safety and the well-being of the turtle. Here are some essential tools you’ll need:

  1. Thick Gloves: Snapping turtles have sharp claws and powerful jaws, so wearing thick gloves is crucial to protect your hands from injury. Leather or heavy-duty gardening gloves are suitable choices.
  2. Long-handled Net: A sturdy net with a long handle allows you to safely capture snapping turtles from a distance. Choose a net with a durable frame and tightly-woven mesh to prevent the turtle from escaping.
  3. Turtle Trap: Turtle traps are specialized devices designed to capture turtles without harming them. These traps typically consist of a wire cage with a funnel entrance and a bait compartment. They are useful for catching turtles passively without direct intervention.
  4. Tongs or Grabbers: Long-handled tongs or grabbers can be helpful for handling snapping turtles at a safe distance. They allow you to grasp the turtle securely without putting your hands in harm’s way.
  5. Bucket or Bin: A large bucket or bin with a secure lid is essential for transporting captured turtles. Make sure the container is sturdy and well-ventilated to provide adequate air circulation for the turtle.
  6. Bait: If using a trap, you’ll need suitable bait to attract snapping turtles. Fish, chicken, or other meaty food items are effective bait options. Make sure to securely attach the bait inside the trap to prevent the turtle from stealing it without being captured.
  7. Transportation Container: For transporting captured turtles, choose a container that is large enough to accommodate the turtle comfortably. Ensure the container has a secure lid to prevent escape and enough water to keep the turtle moist during transit.
  8. Optional: Fishing Pole and Line: In some cases, you may use a fishing pole and line to lure snapping turtles closer before capturing them with a net or trap. This method requires patience and skill but can be effective if executed correctly.

By having these essential tools on hand, you’ll be well-prepared to safely catch snapping turtles while minimizing the risk of injury to yourself and the turtle. Always prioritize the safety and welfare of both yourself and the wildlife when engaging in turtle-catching activities.

Choosing the Right Location

How to catch snapping turtles

Selecting the appropriate location for catching snapping turtles requires careful consideration of habitat preferences, timing, and environmental factors. Understanding where snapping turtles are likely to be found and when they are most active can significantly improve your chances of a successful catch while minimizing potential risks.

Ideal Habitats for Snapping Turtles:

  1. Freshwater Bodies: Snapping turtles primarily inhabit freshwater environments such as lakes, ponds, rivers, and marshes. Look for areas with slow-moving or stagnant water, abundant vegetation, and muddy bottoms, as these provide ideal hunting grounds and nesting sites for snapping turtles.
  2. Sheltered Areas: Snapping turtles prefer habitats with ample cover and hiding spots to retreat to when threatened. This includes submerged logs, dense vegetation, and underwater structures where they can conceal themselves and ambush prey.
  3. Shallow Water: While snapping turtles are capable of diving and swimming, they tend to prefer shallow waters where they can easily bask in the sun and hunt for food. Focus your search in areas with shallow banks and gently sloping shorelines where snapping turtles are more likely to be active.

Best Times of Day for Catching:

  1. Morning and Evening: Snapping turtles are most active during the early morning and late evening hours when temperatures are cooler. Plan your catching expeditions accordingly, as you’re more likely to encounter turtles during these times.
  2. Warm, Sunny Days: Snapping turtles are ectothermic reptiles, meaning they rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature. They are more active on warm, sunny days when temperatures are favorable for basking and foraging.

Factors to Consider When Selecting a Location:

  1. Accessibility: Choose locations that are easily accessible and safe to navigate, especially if you’re venturing into remote or unfamiliar areas. Avoid areas with steep banks, treacherous terrain, or dense vegetation that may impede your movements.
  2. Legal Considerations: Familiarize yourself with local regulations and permits governing the capture and handling of snapping turtles. Ensure that you have the necessary permissions to conduct your activities in the selected location, particularly if it is on public or protected land.
  3. Safety Precautions: Prioritize your safety and the welfare of the turtles by exercising caution when selecting a catching location. Avoid areas with high levels of human activity, pollution, or potential hazards that may pose risks to both yourself and the turtles.

By considering these factors and choosing the right location, you can increase your chances of successfully catching snapping turtles while minimizing disturbance to their natural habitats. Always approach catching activities with respect for wildlife and a commitment to responsible stewardship of the environment.

Techniques for Catching Snapping Turtles

Catching snapping turtles requires patience, skill, and proper technique to ensure the safety of both yourself and the turtle. Here are some effective techniques for catching snapping turtles:

  1. Hand Capture:
    • Approach the turtle cautiously from behind, keeping low to the ground to avoid startling it.
    • Using thick gloves, grasp the turtle firmly by the back of the shell, just above the hind legs.
    • Lift the turtle off the ground, supporting its weight evenly to prevent injury.
  2. Netting:
    • Use a long-handled net with a sturdy frame and tightly woven mesh.
    • Position the net behind the turtle and gently scoop it up from underneath, ensuring the turtle is fully enclosed within the net.
    • Lift the net out of the water, taking care not to let the turtle escape.
  3. Trapping:
    • Set up a turtle trap in a suitable location where snapping turtles are known to frequent.
    • Bait the trap with fish, chicken, or other meaty food items to attract the turtles.
    • Check the trap regularly and remove any captured turtles promptly to prevent stress or injury.
  4. Fishing Pole and Line:
    • Attach a strong fishing line to a sturdy fishing pole and bait the hook with a meaty food item.
    • Cast the line into the water near where snapping turtles are likely to be found.
    • When a turtle takes the bait, slowly reel in the line until the turtle is within reach, then carefully lift it out of the water.
  5. Herding:
    • If the turtle is basking on land, you can use a long stick or pole to gently prod it towards the water.
    • Approach the turtle from a safe distance and slowly guide it towards the water, taking care not to startle or agitate it.
  6. Diving Capture (Advanced):
    • If the turtle is submerged underwater, you can attempt to capture it by diving down and grabbing it by the shell or hind legs.
    • Exercise caution when attempting this technique, as it requires strong swimming skills and the ability to hold your breath for extended periods.

Regardless of the technique you choose, always prioritize safety and the welfare of the turtles. Handle them gently and avoid causing unnecessary stress or injury. If you’re inexperienced or unsure, consider seeking guidance from a knowledgeable individual or wildlife professional before attempting to catch snapping turtles on your own.

Handling and Transporting Snapping Turtles

Handling and transporting snapping turtles require caution and proper technique to ensure the safety of both the turtle and yourself. Here’s a guide on how to handle and transport snapping turtles effectively:

Handling Snapping Turtles:

  1. Use Protective Gear: Wear thick gloves to protect your hands from the turtle’s sharp claws and powerful jaws. Leather or heavy-duty gardening gloves are suitable choices.
  2. Approach Carefully: Approach the turtle slowly and calmly to avoid startling it. Keep your movements deliberate and avoid sudden gestures that may provoke a defensive response.
  3. Grasp the Shell: When handling a snapping turtle, grasp the shell firmly with both hands, holding it on either side just behind the front legs. Avoid touching or grabbing the tail, as this can agitate the turtle.
  4. Control the Head: Use caution when handling the turtle’s head, as snapping turtles can deliver powerful bites if they feel threatened. Keep the turtle’s head away from your body and avoid putting your fingers near its mouth.
  5. Lift Carefully: Lift the turtle off the ground slowly and steadily, supporting its weight evenly to prevent injury. Avoid dropping or mishandling the turtle, as this can cause stress or harm.
  6. Transporting Snapping Turtles:
  7. Use a Secure Container: Transfer the captured turtle to a secure container such as a large bucket or bin with a secure lid. Ensure the container is sturdy and well-ventilated to provide adequate air circulation for the turtle.
  8. Add Water: If transporting the turtle for an extended period, add a shallow layer of water to the container to keep the turtle moist and comfortable. Ensure the water level is not too deep, as snapping turtles are primarily aquatic but still need access to air.
  9. Secure the Lid: Close and secure the lid of the container tightly to prevent the turtle from escaping during transit. Check the container periodically to ensure the lid remains secure and there are no signs of distress from the turtle.
  10. Handle with Care: When transporting the turtle, avoid sudden movements or jostling that may cause stress or injury. Keep the container level and stable to minimize agitation.
  11. Release Promptly: If you’re transporting the turtle for relocation or research purposes, release it back into its natural habitat as soon as possible after your activities are complete. Choose a suitable release site away from human disturbances and predators.

By following these guidelines for handling and transporting snapping turtles, you can ensure the safety and well-being of both the turtle and yourself. Always treat wildlife with respect and handle them responsibly to minimize stress and harm.

If you’re uncertain or uncomfortable with handling snapping turtles, consider seeking assistance from a knowledgeable individual or wildlife professional.


How to catch snapping turtles requires a blend of patience, skill, and respect for these remarkable creatures. Whether utilizing hand capture, nets, traps, or other techniques, prioritizing safety for both yourself and the turtle is paramount.

Proper handling and transportation techniques ensure the well-being of the turtle throughout the process. By understanding their behaviors, selecting appropriate locations, and employing effective methods, you can successfully catch snapping turtles while fostering conservation and stewardship of their habitats.