Snapping Turtle Bite Force & 10 Snapping Turtle Biting Facts

Snapping turtle bite force, how severe is it? You aren’t the only one concerned about the bite force of snapping turtles. For an animal with such a strong and sharp beak, it’s inevitable to get worried about a potential bite from them.

Their name ‘snapping turtle’ isn’t for fun. But given to them because of their nature to snap at anything that comes to them be it food or predators. As you know, these animals can be very aggressive when angry or when threatened.

With that in mind, should you get worried about being bitten if you hand-feed them? We will discuss this and many other issues relating to snapping turtle bite force in this article.

In the end, you should know what to expect if you get bitten by a snapping turtle and moreover, how to prevent snapping turtle bites from happening. Keep reading!

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How Strong Is A Snapping Turtle Bite?

From their look and behavior when eating, you can tell that snapping turtles would bite with a strong force. 

According to a study in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology cited in CBCNews, snapping turtles are recorded to have strong jaws with a bite force of about 208 and 226 Newtons.

This is by comparison equivalent to the average human bite force of about 300 – 700 Newtons when humans bite with their molars. Snapping turtles do not have teeth with which they can chew food. 

Instead, their mouth is made up of two mandibles each on the upper and the lower part of their mouth. Each of these mandibles is shaped like a beak and covered with a hard and bony layer of keratin with which they bite (snap) at foods. 

According to the study cited earlier, when snapping turtles were compared with other animals such as sharks and phrynops nasutus (Hilaire’s side-necked turtle); it was clear that although they have a strong bite force, it is not as powerful as the animals aforementioned. 

However, this is not to imply that you should annoy your pet snapping turtle to trigger a bite from him.

snapping turtle bite force
With such powerful jaws, snapping turtles can bite with a bite force of about 208 and 226 Newtons.

Baby And Juvenile Snapping Turtle Bite Force

If an adult snapping turtle can bite, a baby and juvenile snapping turtle can bite also. Snapping at anything is their nature and part of their survival technique in the wild. 

However, being that as babies and juveniles who aren’t fully developed, their bite force will not be as strong as that of the adults. Snapping turtles takes a long time to reach maturity. It takes a hatchling between 17 to 20 years to get to maturity.

Hence, if you get bitten by a snapping turtle of this age and size below 30 pounds, it wouldn’t be as severe as being bitten by an adult. Going by measurement, the bite force may be around 208 Newtons or less.

Adult Snapping Turtle Bite Force

The adult snapping turtles have a bite force of between 208 to 226 Newtons. This bite force is weaker compared to what an average adult human would bite.

Nonetheless, an adult snapping turtle can bite through a human’s finger but certainly not the entire arm, as some writers believe.

Considering the sharpness of the alligator snapping turtle’s beak, it is possible for the alligator snapping turtle to bite a hunk of meat out of one’s arm. But its ability to bite through or bite off an arm is unproven.

Which Snapping Turtle Has The Strongest Bite?

There are two subspecies of aquatic turtles that make up the snapping turtle species. They are the common and alligator snapping turtles. 

Although in the same class, these animals have some characteristics that set them apart, and one of these characteristics is their bite force.

Which subspecies bites harder? Let’s find out!

The Common Snapping Turtle Bite Force

The common snapping turtle is the smallest and calmest of the snapping turtle species. They are not as big and aggressive as the alligator snapping turtle. However, they do bite when they feel threatened or when they get agitated. 

On average, a common snapping turtle that weighs over 30 pounds can bite a person and leave a serious scar or cause severe damage.

Alligator Snapping Turtle Bite Force

On the flip side, the alligator snapping turtle is the most aggressive subspecies of the snapping turtles. 

By appearance, they have the sharpest and strongest beak which only suggests that they can bite harder than the common snapping turtles. 

Going by the report from the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, the alligator snapping turtle can bite with a force of over 226 Newtons.

Snapping Turtle Biting Facts

When they bite on the prey, they hold onto it until the animal is completely defenseless before they attempt to swallow it. This ‘bite and hold’ behavior is likely to be displayed if they bite you. 

As their keeper, they might just snap at first as a warning for you to stay off them. If you fail to understand that, then get ready for a serious bite.

  • Having a flexible neck that can turn to any direction and can stretch to a considerable length.

Snapping turtles can stretch and bite you irrespective of where you are holding them if they see you as a threat. This is also often triggered if you handle them incorrectly.

  • Snapping turtles’ bite isn’t poisonous. Hence, you can’t die from it, but you may fall sick if the bite is severed deep into your skin and fails to treat it.
  • The alligator snapping turtle subspecies is more powerful and stronger than the common snapping turtle. Hence, they bite with force stronger and harder than the common snapping turtle.

While a common snapping turtle can cause severe damage to your finger, leaving a huge scar, the alligator snapping turtle will bite off your finger if agitated.

Snapping Turtle Bite Force FAQs

Do Snapping Turtles Have Teeth?

No, snapping turtles do not have teeth. What they have is a set of strong beak-like mandibles positioned at the upper and lower part of their mouth. 

They eat food by snapping with these powerful beaks. They also attack predators to defend themselves with these beaks. Hence, their snapping nature is a survival skill rather than a show of aggression.

What Happens If A Snapping Turtle Bites You?

Snapping turtles bite and hold on to their prey or victim, making it difficult for the prey to free itself. Similarly, if you get bitten by a snapping turtle, expect it to hold onto your flesh until you can free yourself. 

When this happens, aggravating the animal will make it hold its grip even more. What you should do at this point is to patiently and gently try to open its mouth by luring it with bait. 

When a snapping turtle bites you, you may see some blood coming out from the bitten area, depending on the severity. 

If the bite gets deep into your skin, ensure that you visit medical personnel immediately for proper treatment to ensure that the wound isn’t infected.

Can A Snapping Turtle Bite Kill You?

No! Snapping turtles’ bite irrespective of the species cannot kill a human. Snapping turtles are not poisonous. In their native region, they are hunted for food. 

But their beaks are known to carry a bacteria called salmonella that can cause diseases or infection if the bite breaks into the skin. This is to say that although they aren’t typically poisonous, their bite is capable of causing diseases. 

Furthermore, if a bite from a snapping turtle was too severe (that is, it bite deep into the skin) and the wound wasn’t treated properly, the wound can get infected, and this will cause other serious health issues to the person bitten. 

At this point, it isn’t the snapping turtle bite that causes the victim’s death but negligence to get proper treatments in time.

That said, what should you do if you get bitten by a snapping turtle? 

First, consult medical personnel for proper treatment with the right antibiotics. Bites from snapping turtles should only be treated by a medical doctor to ensure that the right treatment is given. 

On the contrary, if the bite didn’t pierce through the skin, only wash the area with soap and warm water.

Can A Snapping Turtle Bite Your Finger Off?

Whether a snapping turtle can bite off your finger depends on what species of snapping turtle that bites you, what age, size, and weight. 

As earlier stated, the common snapping turtles can inflict severe damage or leave a noticeable scar on your hand. 

But the alligator snapping turtle can and is likely to bite off your finger because their bite force is stronger and powerful than the common snapping turtle.

snapping turtle can bite off one's finger
proof of alligator snapping turtle biting off a teenage boy’s fore finger. Photo credit: Wilderness & Environmental Medicine (Science Direct)

Which Animal Can Bite The Hardest?

Between the two subspecies of snapping turtles, the alligator snapping turtle bites the hardest. 

But between snapping turtles and other animals, the bite force from snapping turtles is weaker compared to that of other animals such as sharks that bite with a force of 18,000 Newtons.

Other animals that bite harder than snapping turtles include:

  • Polar bear: with a bite force of 1200psi.
  • Hyena: with a bite force of 1100psi.
  • Grizzly bear: with a bite force of 1160psi.
  • Gorilla: with a bite force of 1300psi.
  • Bull shark: with a bite force of 1350psi.
  • Jaguar: this animal has a bite force of 1500psi.
  • Hippopotamus: with a bite force of 1800psi.
  • The American alligator: it has a bite force of 2125.
  • Saltwater crocodile: this animal has a bite force of 3700psi.
  • Nile crocodile: with a bite force of 5000psi.

Wrapping Up

If you are new to snapping turtles as pets or you have kids with a snapping turtle around, it’s ideal that you read about their potential bite and how severe it can be. Snapping turtles are calm and docile animals when they are within their habitat in the water. 

However, when they are out of the water for any reason, they act aggressively. This is because, on land, they are completely defenseless. Hence, they need to be aggressive to defend themselves from attacks. 

Besides being aggressive, snapping turtles also have strong and powerful jaws that can crush hard bones and inflict serious wounds if they bite humans. 

This is to say that while you can keep them as pets, keep in mind that they can bite so hard that they send you to the hospital or sever your finger. 

This is especially true for alligator snapping turtles as they are bigger, stronger, and have a powerful bite force than the common snapping turtles. 

That said, we hope that you get value from reading this article and hope for the best with your pet snapper.

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