Alligator Snapping Turtle Facts for Kids

Take a journey to the mysterious land deep in the heart of America and discover the true beauty it has to offer.

The Alligator Snapping Turtle is one treasured surprise and an amazing species known for its impressive size and weight. Found in North American rivers, creeks, lakes, and other freshwater habitats, this unique turtle is sure to leave you in awe.

Its name is derived from Dutch zoologist Coenraad Jacob Temminck, who studied these remarkable creatures extensively.

Even now, their intricate behavior remains still largely unknown, making them all the more intriguing.

With a long tail featuring spikes at its end and huge jaws that open wide enough to easily fit an adult hand inside, the Alligator Snapping Turtles are certainly not to be taken lightly!

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Alligator Snapping Turtle Facts for Kids

  • Heaviest freshwater turtle in the world.
  • Can weigh up to 200 lbs (90 kg).
  • Shell length up to 31 inches (80 cm).
  • Found in US southeastern rivers.
  • Unique worm-like lure in the mouth.
  • Carnivores: eat fish, frogs, and birds.
  • Can live over 80 years in the wild.
  • It’s the largest freshwater turtle found in North America.
Key StatisticAlligator Snapping Turtle
Scientific NameMacrochelys temminckii
SizeUp to 31 inches (80 cm)
WeightUp to 200 lbs (90 kg)
Lifespan80+ years
HabitatSoutheastern US rivers
Conservation StatusVulnerable


A species with a truly captivating aura, the Alligator Snapping Turtle is an enigmatic creature of the waterways.

Its rough ridges do indeed resemble that of an alligator’s skin – displayed in shades of gray, brown, black, or olive-green and often grassy green from algae.

But look closely at their head and you’ll note radiating yellow patterns around their eyes; nature’s incredible way of keeping them camouflaged.

With filamentous “eyelashes” completing the picture-perfect camouflage. Truly remarkable creatures that have survived for millions of years with no aid from us!

The Alligator Snapping Turtles come laden with strength and awe-inspiring beauty as they make their home in our rivers, lakes, and swamps across the world.

An evocative reminder to appreciate this ancient aquatic wonder before it’s gone forever.


Alligator Snapping Turtles are some of the most fascinating creatures in the southeastern United States.

With a range that stretches from Florida Panhandle to East Texas, and even as far north as Missouri and Iowa, these turtles can be spotted on the banks of rivers, lakes, and canals.

This remarkable creature can even be seen living its life at the Gavins Point Dam Aquarium in Yankton South Dakota.

Like a firefly glimmering through wild meadows, or a butterfly seemingly skipping over rainbows – this beautiful turtle is just waiting to capture your heart.

Habits and Lifestyle

Alligator snapping turtles, solitary creatures with a mysterious aura, spend most of their lives in rivers, lakes, and ponds.

Mostly nocturnal, this species has a remarkable ability to stay submerged for long periods of time making them practically invisible to their prey.

At certain times of day, they like to relax at the bottom of murky water – jaws agape as if they were singing a siren’s call.

The pinkish-tun shapes inside their gray mouths serve as perfect decoys for smaller fish, like minnows or fry. And these acrobatic beings can even hibernate during winter!

Whereas younger alligators rely on this trickery for sustenance, adults have to work harder for their meals and need to find food more actively due to their considerable size and weight.

Such evolved skill sets have enabled them to live successfully in fresh waters since prehistoric times and thrive till today.

It is no surprise then why this reptile is one of nature’s alpha predators; predators that despite being so massive, can remain utterly still until they strike.

Adored by many yet feared by all – these silent beasts watch everything that bypasses with an animalistic precision befitting their ancient lineages.

Diet and Nutrition

Alligator snapping turtles are ravenous, ferocious creatures, built for the hunt. Their diet consists mostly of fish, mollusks, carrion, and even some amphibians.

But it doesn’t just stop there; these strong predators also crave crayfish, snakes, and other aquatic animals to satisfy their substantial appetites.

These turtles even venture out of their food groups to indulge in far more daring pursuits — they’ll snatch up water birds and sometimes even their own species!

But when push comes to shove alligator snapping turtles are known to tangle with other members of the reptile family, including the alligator itself.

Whether it’s snacking on a drowned frog or stealing its neighbor’s dinner (Alligators included!), you can always count on the Alligator Snapping Turtle living up to its name – bold, daring, and never giving up without a fight.

Mating Habits

Nature runs its course according to a unique rhythm that brings delight to those who watch.

Alligator snapping turtle is a fascinating species, for which the period of procreation sees them undertaking the most wonderful display.

Males and females are equally promiscuous during the breeding season, found mainly in areas of the southern range.

The female builds a nest away from the water’s edge to protect her eggs from drowning when it floods and lays 10-50 at a time.

After incubation for 100-140 days, hatchlings emerge into the early falls as small independent versions of their parents – ready to face their own challenges with maturity coming around 12 years.

Though small in stature, these turtles carry within them an incredibly determined spirit and live within two worlds of land and sea so that they may do their part in becoming part of this beautiful natural orchestra.


Alligator snapping turtles are under threat. Not only is their habitat being destroyed by human activity, but they are also heavily exploited for the exotic pet trade and for their meat.

Habitat destruction and over-harvesting have drastically reduced their populations and they are now listed as vulnerable in most of their range.

As top predators and scavengers in their ecosystem, it’s essential that we protect these important species.

The IUCN Red List shows that the wild population of alligator snapping turtles is decreasing; now classified as Vulnerable.

These ancient creatures should be celebrated rather than hunted. Without them, fragile ecosystems could suffer greatly and other species may struggle to survive.

Let’s do our part to make sure alligator snapping turtles can remain a part of our world for many years to come.

With awareness and action, we can ensure these unique creatures have lush habitats in which to live, feed, and thrive.


1. Alligator Snapping Turtle on Wikipedia –

2. Alligator Snapping Turtle on The IUCN Red List site –