How to Pick up a Snapping Turtle with the Safest Way

Written by Ivy

Jan 24 2023

How to Pick up a Snapping Turtle with the Safest Way

If you see a snapping turtle crossing the road, what will you do? Do you know how to pick up and move a snapping turtle?

To pick up a snapping turtle,

  1. Grab the creature by the shell's back as you approach from behind.
  2. The turtle should be gently lifted and moved as quickly as you can.
  3. Quickly take a step back after setting the snapping turtle down.

Biting snapping turtles can be very dangerous. You can reduce any risk while picking up the turtle by providing a few more details. I am happy to have your support. Everything you need to know about picking up and handling a snapping turtle will be covered in this article.

To pick up a snapping turtle,  Grab the creature by the shell's back as you approach from behind. The turtle should be gently lifted and moved as quickly as you can.

Importance of Picking Up a Snapping Turtle Properly

Snapping turtles are a species that we know to be aggressive. However, if handled and treated gently, these turtles don't exhibit any offensive behavior.

When snapping turtles are handled roughly, it makes them stressed out and causes them to bite those who are closest to them. Do not underestimate these creatures' ability to attack. Turtles that snap can sever human fingers.

In light of this, I advise becoming familiar with proper turtle handling techniques. The method is very helpful if you are rearing a snapping turtle. Even if you don't have a snapping turtle of your own, you can use these techniques to reduce the possibility of an attack while handling one.

How to Identify Common Snapping Turtles


  • North America
    • As far North as Manitoba, Canada
    • As far South as Florida
    • As far West as New Mexico
    • As far East as Nova Scotia, Canada


  • Hatchlings: 1.5″ Shell Length
  • Adults: 9-20″ Shell Length

Shell Appearance:

  • Dark brown, green, gray, or black
  • May be covered in green algae and pond vegetation
  • Hatchlings: Three distinct, keeled ridges running down the carapace
  • Adults: Keeled ridges flatten as the turtle grows, large common snapping turtles have a smooth and rounded carapace (which is another name for the turtles' shells)

Tail Length:

  • Roughly as long as the turtle's carapace, doubling its overall length
  • Snappers are easy to distinguish from any other native turtle species by the length of their tail.

Beak Shape:

  • Rounded, U-shaped lower jaw
  • Round upper jaw with small hooked tip

How to Identify Alligator Snapping Turtles

To pick up a snapping turtle,  Grab the creature by the shell's back as you approach from behind. The turtle should be gently lifted and moved as quickly as you can.


  • United States
    • As far North as central Illinois
    • As far South as northern Florida
    • As far West as eastern Texas
    • As far East as the Florida Atlantic coast


  • Hatchlings: 2″ Carapace Length
  • Adults: 12-32″ Carapace Length

Shell Appearance:

  • Overall rough, pointy texture
  • Dark brown, green, gray, or black
  • May be covered in green algae and pond vegetation
  • The carapace has three distinct keeled ridges running the length of it. prominent even in adults.

Tail Length:

  • Roughly as long as the turtle's carapace, doubling its overall length
  • Snappers can be distinguished from other native turtle species by the length of their tail.

Beak Shape:

  • Triangular
  • Top jaw has a significant hook at the tip

Mouth Lure:

  • Used to catch prey
  • Resembles a worm
  • Pink, fleshy appendage
  • Only visible when the turtle opens its mouth

How to Pick Up a Baby Snapping Turtle?

Snapping turtle young are quite tiny. The hatchlings can easily be handled because of their average size of 1.5 inches. It can even be done with just your thumb and forefinger.

Your thumb should first be placed on the baby snapping turtle's carapace, or upper shell. Next, place your forefinger between the hatchling's back legs and the plastron. Pick up the baby snapping turtle by giving a firm grasp with little pressure.

You should always handle and touch the hatchling with care and gentleness.

How to Pick up a Snapping Turtle

How to Pick Up a Juvenile Snapping Turtle?

The baby snapping turtle ages by months and increases in size and weight. A young snapping turtle typically grows to be 3.5 to 5 inches long, sometimes even larger. To pick up the turtle with your thumb and forefinger is no longer a secure method.

Place your thumb on the back of the shell and your forefinger and middle finger underneath the turtle's back legs to help you gently grab it. Your fingers should be able to catch the turtle's tail. Then pick it up.

More weight than usual may be present in your young snapping turtle. If so, support the turtle with more fingers. There will be more room at the plastron to place fingers as the turtle gets bigger.

When handling the animal, don't take any chances. The snapping turtle's shell can become damaged with just one fall or slip.

How to Pick Up Adult Snapping Turtles?

The common snapping turtle has a length of 8 to 14 inches, occasionally 20 inches. Considering their size, you can infer their weight. The adult snapping turtle should not be picked up with one hand. When working with an adult snapper, you would require both of your hands.

Here is a step by step process showing the right way to pick up an adult snapping turtle:

  1. Snapping turtles have keen eyesight, so if you are not careful, they will detect your presence. Therefore, approaching the turtle directly is not a wise move because it will be on guard. Instead, approach the snapping turtle from behind. During the move, keep quiet.
  2. Use both of your hands at this point. Put one hand on each side of the snapping turtle and gently grab it from the back of its shell. Not in the middle of the turtle's legs, but behind them, should be where your hands should be.
  3. Check your grip before attempting to lift the snapping turtle. Snapping turtles have the potential to weigh up to 75 lbs. Additionally, the skin and shell may become slick from the habitat water. An accident is more likely to happen if your hold is shaky.
  4. With its body as close to the ground as you can, lift the snapping turtle. If your hand slips, it will reduce your risk of dropping the object or suffering an injury.
  5. A snapping turtle's flexible neck allows it to reach farther than you might expect. The sudden movements may have alerted the turtle to danger. You can't complain if the snapper extends its neck and bites you with its razor-sharp jaws. Keep the snapping turtle's head pointed at the ground to prevent such a situation from occurring. Additionally, keep the turtle far from your body and avoid any close contact with him.
  6. If you intend to move the snapping turtle, place it gently on the ground or another surface. Step back after releasing your hand hold. When feeling defensive, snapping turtles move quickly. In order to avoid any bites or scratches, quickly step back.
How to Pick up a Snapping Turtle

How to Pick Up An Injured Snapping Turtle?

Snapping turtles frequently get hit by cars as they cross the street. Due to the excruciating pain, the injured turtles are unable to move. If you see a snapping turtle that appears to be injured while you are traveling, you should always report it.

Remember that injured snapping turtles are more delicate. Therefore, you must exercise caution when handling or picking up the creatures. Here is how you can do the task:

  1. Check out the injured turtle's physical state. The last thing you want is to hurt the turtle by applying pressure to its vulnerable area.
  2. If the location is still intact, take the snapping turtle out of its shell at the back. The injury will cause the animal to behave more aggressively.
  3. Put the turtle in a box or container and take it to the doctor.

Contact any emergency pet shelter or the state wildlife authority if the snapping turtle's condition is critical. Check out this article for detailed instructions on turtle rescue.

Tips and Warnings to Handle a Snapping Turtle

You already know how to pick up a snapping turtle if you've read this far. Here are a few bonus tips for you:

  • The weight of a snapping turtle combined with its aquatic lifestyle can make it somewhat slippery. Put on safety gloves to help you maintain your grip. Additionally, wearing these gloves will lessen the likelihood of a snapping turtle attack or bite.
  • Snapping turtles feel exposed necks make them vulnerable. When moving across the land, they stay vigilant. Consequently, be quiet as you approach the turtles. Snapping turtles are aware of your presence.
  • Snapping turtles can be picked up by their tails or back legs in videos I've seen. Such a stupid task is an example of animal cruelty. Snappers can sustain serious damage if they are lifted by their tails or back legs.

Why Do Snapping Turtles Cross Roads and How to Help?

It's actually a fascinating sight to see snapping turtles cross the street. Ever wonder why turtles behave in this way?

Well, female snapping turtles are typically seen moving around the wetland. These turtles are typically either looking for a place to lay their eggs or making their way back home.

The young turtles or newly hatched turtles move away from their birthplace to any suitable living water source. Male snapping turtles also prowl the area looking for the ideal mate.

You know it's against the law to disturb turtles in the wild. The wildlife authority, however, actually encourages helping the snapping turtles cross the road. The experts advise moving the turtles precisely in the direction they're going by picking them up.

You might occasionally question the snapping turtle's direction. But be careful when changing your direction. Snapping turtles have a sense of direction and are obstinate creatures. The turtle will suffer if left going in the wrong direction.

How to Pick up a Snapping Turtle

Snapping Turtle Bite While Picking Up: What to Do?

The vicious biters known as snapping turtles. If you're not careful when picking up the turtle, you might get that nasty jaw bite. If a snapper bit you viciously, what would you do?

Do not panic, is my first piece of advice to you. It will not help to pull your hand off or to push the snapping turtle's mouth open. A snapping turtle becomes terrified when its jaws are forced open. It does this by making its jaw engravings deeper than before.

Waiting for the turtle to release its hold is preferable. Take a swift step back once the snapping turtle releases its bite. Immersing the snapping turtle in water also helps to loosen its jaw hold.

There is no doubt that a snapping turtle's bite hurts. However, it won't kill you. Warm water, soap, and antibacterial products should be used to clean the wound. The only thing the bite will leave behind is a bruise.

What is the Proper Way to Pick Up a Turtle?

Put one hand on either side of the turtle's shell, in between the front and back legs, when picking up a large turtle. Lift the turtle from the surface with a firm grip. To reduce the risk of falling and prevent bites, keep its head and body downward. Placing the turtle on the chosen surface, box, or container is recommended.

Turtles that live in or near water make good kickers. They will kick you with their legs or at the very least scratch you if they touch you roughly. Typically, a turtle doesn't mind being gently touched.

You can pick up a baby turtle with your thumb and forefinger if you have one. Put your fingers on the upper and lower shells. Also, remember to treat the turtle with respect.

Keep in mind that handling the turtle excessively can stress it. Thus, you ought to give the turtle some space. If it is not necessary or the animal is not at ease, do not pick it up.


Make sure you are picking up a snapping turtle for the animal's safety in order to prevent further harm.

Compared to a common one, handling an alligator snapping turtle is more difficult. Lifting the turtle should always be done carefully. Avoiding hurting the turtle or yourself is the main objective in this situation.


Why Did the Snapping Turtle Cross the Road?

When young snapping turtles travel from their nest to the body of water where they will live, people frequently come across them.

Most snapper hatchlings don't survive this journey.

They are frequently snatched up by predators or crushed by moving vehicles. Unfortunately, pregnant mothers mistake roadside embankments for the ideal place to build a nest.

Adult snapping turtles out of the water are usually gravid females looking for somewhere to lay their eggs.

Alternatively, they may be going back to the water after laying their eggs.

Can You Pick Up a Snapping Turtle by Its Tail?

No turtle should ever be picked up by the tail.

Snappers should probably be handled by their tails because of the length of their tails and the potential danger of their bites.

The turtle you were trying to save may end up dead or permanently disabled if you lift it by the tail because doing so can cause serious spinal damage.

How Powerful is a Snapping Turtle's Bite?

People often exaggerate the snapper's "powerful jaws" and strength.

Alligator snapping turtles bite with 158 N of force.

Common snapping turtles bite with 208 N of force.

Common toad-headed turtles have the strongest bites, measuring 432 N.

Humans can bite with a force between their second molars of 200 to 600 newtons (N), for comparison's sake.

There have been reports of snapping turtles biting off people's fingers, despite how low those numbers may seem. Stay safe!

Do Baby Snapping Turtles Bite?

Baby snappers DO bite, without a doubt. Fortunately, these turtles can't bite deeply enough to cause serious harm when they're young. It may still hurt, so it's best to stay away from any snapper's bitey end.