Snapping Turtle or Softshell Turtle? By: Wes Tallyn

When it comes to large freshwater turtles in Florida, there are really only two species that are common–the Florida Softshell Turtle and the Common Snapping Turtle.  Both of these turtles can grow quite large on a diet of everything from fish to reptiles to insects.

The Florida Softshelll Turtle is more common than the Snapping Turtle in Florida.   They can be found throughout the state in lakes, creeks and retention ponds.   The long neck and pointy nose make it easy to identify Florida Softshell Turtles. Females can be seen leaving the water in late Spring or Summer in search of a nest location on land.   The females dig a hole in a dry area and lay a clutch of eggs.   Oftentimes, predators like crows and raccoons will find the nest and eat the eggs before they have a chance to hatch.   Some crows have even learned to follow the turtles when they leave the water.

Common Snapping Turtles are, as the name says, “common” but live secretive lives in bogs and creeks and are much harder to observe in the wild.   The best time to find the Common Snapping Turtle is when they move from one pond to another.   Snapping Turtles sit on the bottom and wait for prey to swim or crawl by and then they ambush them.   Common Snapping Turtles have a much larger “beak” on their mouth that looks much like a sea turtle’s mouth.   The head is also very rounded and larger than the Softshell.

Try places like Myakka River State Park, Boyd Hill Nature Park and Circle B Bar Reserve to see if you can find both species today!