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Can Snapping Turtles Climb Walls?

As a herpetologist who loves turtles and tortoises, You probably have read about some land tortoises such as sulcata, Gopher, and Galapagos and their capabilities of overthrowing house equipment, pulling down their enclosure walls, and sometimes climbing out of the cage to escape. 

What about water turtles? Can Snapping Turtles Climb Walls? All the information we have about snapping turtles is that they are docile and love burrowing. Very little information exists on its climbing ability and tendency to climb its enclosure walls. 

On this note, this article seeks to address questions concerning snapping turtles’ climbing ability and Habits. Do they like to climb? Can they climb walls? Read on to find out.

This article has been reviewed by Dr. Gospel. Read more about our knowledge control process here.

Do Snapping Turtles Like To Climb?

Snapping turtles can climb but do they like to climb? NO! 

Snapping turtles are aquatic animals that find solace in burrowing themselves in the muddy or sandy bottom of their pond. They often do this with their eyes and nostrils exposed for up to 3 hours or more before they would swim to the surface to breathe. 

That notwithstanding, they have for certainty great climbing abilities just like land tortoises. Although they are incredible climbers, they do not climb so often in the wild

They only climb in the wild when it becomes a necessity, which we’ll discuss in the article. 

In captivity, snapping turtles spend most of their time “exploring” the tank. Actually looking for food, and more foods to eat.

Alligator snappers can climb and do climb too
Alligator snappers can climb and do climb too

Can Snapping Turtles Climb Walls?

Snapping turtles are incredible climbers. So, YES, for various reasons, snapping turtles do climb walls.

Almost all snapping turtle owners I’ve had contact with confirm that their snappers climbed out of their tank very often. Snapping turtles can climb walls of about 1.5 times their length in height.

Snapping turtles, being water turtles, are able to climb walls with the help of these two body features. First, snapping turtles are strong, energetic animals with strong legs and smart adaptive skills. 

Secondly, they have long and thick claws that can hook on any surface, especially rough surfaces perfectly, enabling them to pull themselves up the wall till they eventually make a flip to the other side of the wall. 

Hence, it shouldn’t take you by surprise when you realize that your snapping turtle isn’t in its tank. Once you experience this, what you should be worried about is why would your snapper try to escape? The next section provides answers to that. Read on!

5 Reasons/Causes Why Snapping Turtles Climb Walls In The Wild

Snapping turtles do climb in the wild as well as they climb in captivity. But the reason why they climb in these two environments differs. In the wild, they climb either in search of a new pond, a good nesting area, or just taking a walk. And the common snapping turtles are observed to be more adventurous than alligator snappers.

In Search Of A Good Nesting Spot

Can snapping turtles climb walls? Yes they can
A female common snapping turtle crossing a rocky/hilly road to some lay eggs

As stated earlier, both in the wild and captivity, snapping turtles are known to bury most of the time, come out to breathe for a while, and look for what to eat. The routine continues all year. 

However, the females in the wild would walk several miles to locate a safe nesting spot for their eggs. While on the way, they may have to overcome obstacles to get to a good nesting spot. This may include climbing over rocks, fallen trees, or even hills. 

In Search Of A New Pond/Home

In one of our articles, Snapping Turtle Facts, we did mention that only a few snapping turtles occupy a single pond. This means that the number of snapping turtles found in a single pond is directly proportional to the availability of food in the pond. 

Hence, if the pond is big and has lots of freshwater foods in it, then you’re likely to have some snappers living there. 

What this means to snapping turtles climbing ability is that oftentimes in the wild snapping turtles will leave their pond in search of another nearby body of water where they can make their home.

A common snapping turtle climbing a wall to get to the pond [source: GreatPlainSPKG]

5 Reasons/Causes Why Snapping Turtles Climb Walls In Captivity

Since in captivity snapping turtles don’t have to go look for new water bodies and a good nesting spot, why then do they climb out of their tank? 

It’s important to state here that when your pet snapper climbs out of its tank in captivity, it has more to do with your husbandry than an adventure. Poor husbandry, such as poor water quality, improper tank size, poor cage setup, and many other reasons can make them climb out of their tank in captivity.

And until all possible husbandry failure is ruled out, you should not assume your snapper was just exploring. 

Below are the reasons your pet snapper will climb out of its tank in captivity.

Water ( Cleanness, Temperature, Water Density)

Water to your snapping turtles is like air to humans. Take them out of water for too long, you deprived them of oxygen. Keep them in a tank with poor water quality, you have unknowingly contaminated their environment. 

Therefore, for snapping turtles, the water in their tank should be clean, free from chemicals such as chlorides, must be kept in the ideal temperature range of 78 F – 80 F and must be enough to cover their entire body. 

If all these water qualities aren’t met, your snapper will be so uncomfortable and would want to escape. For this reason, it’s not advisable to use tap water in their tank except the tap water has been treated to be safe for them. 

That said, one of the first things you should do if your snapper climbs out of its tank is to check your water quality. 

In fact, ensuring that you maintain good water quality in your pet’s aquarium isn’t something you should take into consideration only when something bad happens to your pet. It is something you should check regularly.

Improper Tank Size

Keeping your adult snapping turtle in a small aquarium can also be the reason he climbed out. If your snapper could talk, he’ll probably say “I know I love burrowing and wouldn’t move a lot, but don’t get me stuck in a lizard coffin-sized box, I’m choking.” 

In the wild, snapping turtles, especially common snappers hunt by going after their prey. In captivity, they love exploring their tank looking for food and more foods to eat. They’ll also like to hunt (that’s going after prey) if given the opportunity in captivity. 

This is to imply that you should provide your pet snapper an appropriate size tank that will encourage natural activities like burrowing and exploring. The ideal tank size for adult snappers is 125 gallon with 12 – 18 depth in water.

They Are Finding Hiding Spots

Remember that snapping turtles spend most of their time buried in the mud in the wild. And the condition at the muddy bottom of the water is dark and warm. 

Therefore, your captive snapper will need lots of accessories to replicate the dark warm natural habitat they’re used to. 

You can use sand, small or medium-sized pebbles as substrates in their tank with some fake plants and small fish. This way your snapper wouldn’t be bored or stressed.

They Got Stress

As stated earlier, lack of what to burrow in or accessories (fishes and plants) to explore can cause stress to your pet that it wants to just leave the tank. Life in a tank isn’t easy. Hence, make it colorful and enjoyable for them.

3 Tips To Avoid Snapping Turtles From Climbing Walls

Besides taking notes of why your snapper would consider wall climbing and how to solve it, here are a few tips to help keep your pet in its tank:

Have Tall Enough Walls

Ensure you get them a big tank with high walls that they will get tired of trying to climb out. This way, they’ll remain in their tank.

Do Not Use Materials And Wall Design Suitable For Climbing

snapping turtles can climb walls with elevated rocks in their pond.
If you have an elevated rock in its aquarium, your pet snapper can use that to climb the walls out.

Imagine keeping your snapper in an aquarium with a rough wall surface or wires or other things that can aid climbing cluttered in the tank. It’s just a matter of time, you’ll wake up to see him in your kitchen looking for food. 


Of all you know about snapping turtles, you probably didn’t know that they are excellent climbers until you woke up one morning and couldn’t find your pet in its tank. I bet, snapping turtles climbing the wall would be the last thing you thought it would do. 

But it happened that it just did. In the wild, the gravid females lay eggs around June. So during that time they usually leave the water in search of a nesting area and on their way, they can climb over obstacles to achieve their goals. 

Since they don’t climb in captivity for the same reason, you have to ensure that all your husbandry checklists are standard. This includes proper heating and lighting, ideal temperature and humidity, and proper cage setup. 

Also, keep an eye on your pet. If it tries to climb out you can secure the lid to keep it inside.

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