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Snapping Turtle Mating Season: 5 Important Things To Note

Have you heard your snapping turtles start making high-pitched noises? Quite possibly, you’re catching your pets in the act of “breathing,” which is the first sign that they’re about to come out of hibernation and begin to court their chosen mating partner.

Snapping turtles mating season begins in early April and lasts until late May. This is the time of year when males are looking for a mate to carry their eggs, which will hatch in August or September.

This article discusses what happens during snapping turtle mating season and why they have such an aggressive personality around this time.

When Do Snapping Turtles Mate?

Snapping turtles may breed at any time of year, but they often do so between April and November. Breeding activity spikes in May when the females are more likely to lay their eggs after warming up with an initial courtship display from the males. 

The female snapping turtle can store sperm for up to several years and it is possible that her eggs may have been fertilized during this time. This means there could be multiple fathers in the same clutch and even when she doesn’t mate, they will still manage to get pregnant!

Snapping Turtle Mating Season
Snapping turtles mating

Behaviors of Male Snapping Turtle In Mating Season

The male snapping turtles are among the most aggressive of all freshwater turtle species.

When mating, the male chases the female until she subsides into submission and he mounts her from behind by grasping on tightly with all four legs while biting at any part of her body as he inseminates her. A common snapping behavior is for them to bite each other on their necks.

Snapping turtle mating is not painful. The male’s long claws are not sharp enough to pierce the female’s scaly armor or break her shell. Mating females just let the male do what he has to do.

During mating season, the male snapping turtle is not only aggressive towards the female, but also toward his reflection on the water surface. He views his reflection as an opponent that needs to be fought off at any cost. If he sees his reflection, it will try to bite off the reflection through the water. 

Since the male snapping turtle is an omnivore that prefers meaty plants, insects, and other animal protein sources, the breeder should provide a diet that includes fish, frogs, cricket, earthworms, beef heart or liver, and some plant matter.

Snapping turtles mating in the wild [source: Ferris Akel]

Behaviors Of Female Snapping Turtle In Mating Season

When mating, the behavior of a female snapping turtle is quite submissive. During this time, a female snapping turtle may have her lower shell gashed deeply by the male’s claws.

Once mating has been completed, the female exits the water. She builds a nest made of leaves, sticks and mud near the water or on a wetland.

Female snapping turtles are more susceptible to stress than males during their breeding season. Stress on the female snapping turtle comes in different forms and includes changes in habitat, low-quality food, and environmental pollution.

More specifically, stress caused by human activities and natural predators (animals) may inhibit reproduction and increase mortality levels. This susceptibility makes them require more special care and nutrition than the male turtle.

While both genders of turtles can be aggressive, outbursts in behavior occur more often with females. Females become more territorial, which leads to aggression among themselves as well as towards other creatures around them.

The females are primarily omnivorous animals. During this season, the breeder should give a steady diet of vegetables as well as animal matter such as crayfish, insects and snakes.

While some experts recommend that female snapping turtles be fed on a diet mainly consisting of animal protein, others believe that vegetables should form a larger part of their diet.

Vegetables promote better shell growth and help reduce the risk of shell deformities. Animal protein, on the other hand, helps them gain rapid weight and develop muscles fast.

The exact amount of food and water needed by the female depends on how big it is and how much energy it uses up over time. The bigger the animal gets, the more food and water she needs to survive.

When Do Snapping Turtles Start Building a Nest And Lay Eggs

Snapping turtles make their nests in the spring and summer, usually beginning around April. 

They provide a safe haven (usually in dry and sandy areas)  and watch over their young as they lay eggs between 20-40 and sometimes even 100 in just a single nest.

Snapping turtle preparing/digging her nest
Snapping turtle preparing/digging her nest

Snapping Turtles Building a Nest And Lay Eggs

The egg-laying females will dig a nest in loose soil, sand, loam or vegetation debris to deposit their eggs. Depending on when they mated, the reproductive process usually starts early summer until late autumn.

After laying her eggs, the female snapping turtle will stay with them for a day or two to rest. Like most reptiles that nest, female snapping turtles do not care for their young or eggs. They do not possess an innate nurturing instinct like other types or animals typically seen as mothers. Once fully rested, the female will abandon her nest then go back to the water. 

Female snapping turtle laying some eggs
Female snapping turtle laying some eggs

Newly Hatched Snapping Turtles

Most of the eggs laid by these female snapping turtles will never hatch. They’re often eaten before they have a chance by predators such as raccoons, foxes, and insects. Some may also be infertile. 

If the eggs hatch, these hatchlings spend three to seven days emerging from their nest. They leave in groups and at night to avoid many predators that wait for them. 

Once free of this protective ground surrounding their home, they head immediately towards water sources. They are able to live on their own right away. 

The snapping turtle’s sex determination system relies on temperature. Eggs that are maintained at 68°F produce females while 70-72°F produce both males and females. When incubated at 73-75°F, only males are produced. In addition, the incubation temperature also affects growth rate, adult size and the timing of sexual maturity.

If farmers should uncover a nest of eggs, they need to gently cover them and hope for the best. If there’s any danger from predators then, they can remove the eggs and bring them to a safer area without shaking them. Learn how to care for snapping turtle eggs here!

hatchling snapping turtle
A snapping turtle hatchling searching for water and some food


Snapping turtles are one of the most fascinating animals on earth. Their mating habits, long life span and ability to regenerate their limbs make them interesting animals with a lot to teach us about living in harmony with nature. We hope you enjoyed this blog post and learned a few things about Snapping Turtles.

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