The common snapping turtle, also called Snappers, is one of the largest freshwater turtles in the United States, usually weighing in at about 25 pounds! Though they are considered aquatic turtles, snapping turtles also spend a good deal of time out of the water. Aside from their large body size, Snappers have a long distinctive tail that resembles an Alligator's tail with its saw-tooth like projections. The carapace or upper shell is dull, rough, and can vary in color from brown, black, and olive. Snappers have fat, stubby legs that are very strong and powerful to help them to swim.
Snappers are unique in that they do not hide in their shells. Instead, these feisty and aggressive turtles use their long necks and incredibly powerful jaws to reach around and bite predators! Thus, it would be best to avoid touching or handling snapping turtles unless necessary. If you see an injured, sick, or a Snapper in danger (i.e. in the middle of a road), please handle them with extreme caution!
If possible, avoid putting your hands, feet, face, and other important body parts near the front half of their body. To move an injured or sick Snapper grab the back most portion of their upper shell. Keep a sturdy grip because they are heavy!
If their carapace is not sturdy due to a shell injury you can pick them up by their tails as close to the base as possible with one hand and support the back 1/3 of the plastron or lower shell with the other hand. The latter method is not highly recommended because it is probably more painful to be lifted by the tail. However, it can be used as a last resort. Remember, common snapping turtles have extremely long necks with a wide reach - body parts near the front half of the turtle is not considered safe from bite attacks!