Anyone had a Snapping Turtle in their pond?

indycat(6)December 8, 2009

Sunday evening I was checking my larger pond as I had just added the deicer and some aeration. I spotted a turtle in the bottom and from what I could tell I am almost certain it is a snapper. The turtle is about 10 inches long and 8 inches wide, so good sized. I live in the county and there are some lakes and streams in the area, and it probably came from there. I am not certain how long it has been in the pond, but all my koi are accounted for. Because of the ice forming on the top of the pond, and the size of the pond (22,000 gallons) I donÂt think I can get the turtle out until Spring. I have a few patches of hornwort in the bottom and last I saw the turtle it was going under the plants. I called the Department of Natural Resources, and talked to someone who said the turtle would "not eat much" in the winter, but might get one or two of my frogs or koi. She also thought how "neat" it was that the turtle had found such a nice winter home. Has anyone had a snapping turtle overwinter in their pond and if so how much damage did it do? Also anyone know how I can get the turtle out of the pond without damaging my koi and frogs?

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I had a small (6"-ish long) snapping turtle in my pond for a brief period of time until I caught it and released it down by the river, but haven't had one overwinter in my pond as far as I know. I got lucky in that it got itself caught in the skimmer net, but not before it partially ate at least two goldfish. It thankfully didn't do any damage to the liner, but I'd imagine that is a very real possibility with a big enough snapper cause they have some nasty claws on all 4 feet. The first time I saw mine, I thought it was a muskrat or something cause all I saw was a long tail and two clawed feet as it disappeared under a rock.

As for catching the turtle, I've found that they are fairly shy creatures (at least when small) and will hide in the rockwork if in an unsafe position, or hide in the vegetation and/or detritus at the bottom for long periods of time while it waits for unsuspecting prey to wander by. I do think that there are turtle traps that you can buy/make, but you have to be careful and place the trap in an area where the turtle can still get access to the surface to breathe.

If you do attempt or are successful in catching it, be very careful during handling - they are not called snappers for nothing and can cause serious injury if they get their jaws on you.

- Mike

    Bookmark   December 8, 2009 at 11:13AM
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bubbalove(7 Central AL)

You could buy or make a turtle trap. It's basically a floating cage that has a hole in the middle. The turtle crawls up on the edge to get a little sun and then has a 50% chance of sliding either into or out of the cage. Eventually they slide in.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2009 at 1:16PM
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sdavis(z7b nc)

Snapping turtles like to roost in discrete places, hiding. Staying out of sight. Abundant lilypad foliage is favourite cover

By the time you realise they have been lurking in a pond for some months, they can have gouged hundreds and thousands of holes in a pond liner with their very large, half inch long or more sharp hind claws.

Where they roost, among pots their forelegs will rest on the rim of a pot, their hind legs latch on to whatever they can grip, often folds in a liner. When they breath, they push upward with their hind legs and discretely pop eyes and nose above the water.

Shuffling their position every time they take a breath...

Snapping turtles don't bask, it takes a baited submerged trap to catch those, which usually catches them by the next morning, they tend to respond to bait during the twilight hours

    Bookmark   December 9, 2009 at 4:12AM
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Thank you for your replies. Due to the ice on the pond I will probably not be able to remove the turtle until spring. All the traps I have seen need to be in the water and I donÂt think I can get them in place unless we have a warm few days. I have talked to a couple of locals who fish, they have offered to "hook" the turtle and have gone hunting for turtles in this fashion. I really donÂt want to hurt the turtle; I just want it out of my pond. I am counting my fish when able and so far they are fine. There is minimal ice today but no sign of the turtle, it has lots of places to hide.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2009 at 10:56AM
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johnkr(z5 PA)

I never had a snapping turtle in my pond, but I've had eastern painted turtles for a few years. They generally spend the winter in a hibernation state and don't feed. I think the snapper would do the same.

I never had any problems with the turtles causing damage to my rubber liner.

My little guy (Corky) is spending the winter in an indoor aquarium. It's endless summer for him.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2009 at 5:38PM
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I have a snapper, but like Corky, he's spending the winter indoors. He hatched very late (he's the size of a quarter)and was found wandering in the road. He won't relocate well in the cold weather so he will spend the winter indoors and be released in the spring. He's quite fond of pot roast - raw.
I suspect your snapper will go after the frogs first during the winter, if he does get hungry. In the spring, a big chunk of meat (beaf) on a string, a net and a tub to put him in. Use the meat to lure him out into the open where you can net him.
Snappers' claws aren't really that much worse than any other turtles, - the bigger the turtle, the bigger the claws. But watch your fingers...


    Bookmark   December 9, 2009 at 11:16PM
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I have a turle in my pond, I think is a Snapping turtle. This is my second year that I have her. I had two, but heron grabbed one.Turtles hybernate in the pond, just like tadpoles,and frogs. I live very close to Descanso Gardens in La Canada Flintridge in Southern California, and there are two ponds in Descanso Gardens, so herons hang around, and occasionally they visit my pond for a desert of frog or turtle. On warm days turtle will come out and sunbathe in the sun, but otherwise turtles are wery shy and jump in the pond for every little reason.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2009 at 1:14PM
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bubbalove(7 Central AL)

Yes, they definitely get out of the water and sun themselves. Any underwater trap will kill them (as they can't breathe underwater).
One thing I've learned about snapping turtles is they will travel. You can build a small pond over a mile from natural water and they will find it.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2009 at 4:35PM
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Well there is a good amount of ice on the pond now, but I am able to see through it. I can see most of the fish, but no sign of the turtle. I suspect he is in under the plants. I have a patch of hornwort that is about 4ftx4ft and I saw the turtle near there last time, so my guess is he is under there. I had planned to do a thorough cleaning of the pond this spring, pull out all the plants, and thin out the submerged plants, so I suspect if I donÂt have the snapper out by then, it will be a showdown. I think I need a bigger net, the one I have is for koi and I am not sure it will hold the turtle. I was sure hoping to get the turtle while it was moving slowly in the cold water.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2009 at 11:58PM
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patrick__mi__z5(z5 Mi)

It looks like you are going to have a visitor for the winter. How neat! While you are hibernating inside for the winter here is a site to look at. Go to and start reading the articles on the left. They will tell you everything from how to pick a turtle up, to how to catch them, and how to do it the right way so you don't hurt them,and they don't hurt you. If you keep reading all the articles you might just want let him stay around. Turtles are fun to observe. They are shy but very curious creatures and always want to know what is going on around them.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2009 at 3:27PM
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It is my experience that northern snappers winter over in the woods. They often burrow under piles of leaves wherever they accumulate en mass. In one of the local irrigation ponds they have been known to winter inside a large burrow that has formed under a maple tree. It is an awesome site to see.....I once climbed into a hole that formed between some of the roots and found the burrow to be well over twelve feet wide and maybe eight feet deep into the bank. There were three snappers sitting up on shelves well above the water table. I could be wrong but I am fairly sure thwey would die if trapped under ice.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2009 at 9:16PM
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sdavis(z7b nc)

Snapping turtles have their own way of breathing under water and Winter ice. They can cope with Winter, though, I would be sceptical how well they would cope if the water is polluted heavily with methane or hydrogen sulphide.

Thats an amazing burrow, for a turtle to have made it must have taken many generations to do it. A snapping turtle here managed to gouge thousands of holes on lined ponds in a couple of years, mebbe they have a 'tunneling' instinct, trying to dig towards ground warmth...

    Bookmark   December 27, 2009 at 2:35PM
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ItÂs been three weeks now and the snapper is doing fine. I have seen him several times moving around under the ice. When the pond is not frozen, he seems to be under some submerged plants out in the middle. The water quality is good, and my painted turtles in the front pond have survived several winters. I was able to account for all my fish last week. I also saw a frog at the bottom, so the snapper has not been eating everything.

I have a large industrial net that can hold the turtle if I am lucky enough to get him. He seems to go to the same areas of the pond when it is iced over and I am hoping he starts to go there when it is thawed. I have a large tub with a lid that I have cut holes into. Once I have the turtle in the tub, there is a lake about 20 miles away that will be his new home. I have had many suggestions about baiting a hook or getting a trap, but I really donÂt want to risk harming the turtle, I just want him out of my pond.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2009 at 9:00PM
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sdavis(z7b nc)

If you have a strong flashlight, can see the snapping turtle is in a place where he can be cornered it should be fairly easy to net him. They are very docile and gentle in cold water, but will start snapping when lifted out.

A submerged trap is particularly good when the pond is large, the plant cover is extensive, such that you never catch sight of them. Only the trail of devastated lily baskets in the wake of their twilight snacks.

In warm water conditions, over 80°f they are way feisty and will merrily chase you about.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2009 at 12:54AM
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chrisware(5-6 wv)

Had one this summer in my koi pond, but after running to the garage to get the fishing net, I was able to catch him in one swift swoop. I was so lucky I got him. Otherwise it would have taken a lot of tries, because even a small one like him could have done a lot of damage to my koi and fantails.


    Bookmark   January 13, 2010 at 3:11PM
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