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The Zoo's male alligator snapping turtle hatched in the wild in Louisiana. He is very large, and given this species’ longevity, may be as much as 100 years old. He came to the Philadelphia Zoo from the Cincinnati Zoo on November 16, 2006.
The Reptile House
Alligator snapping turtles are also referred to as alligator snappers or loggerheads. These turtles have large heads and powerful jaws. Their shells have three distinct ridges that run from front to back. They are found exclusively in North America.
They are the largest freshwater turtles in the North America. The biggest on record was a 236-pound turtle that lived at Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo.
Alligator snapping turtles typically live about 70 years, but they can potentially live as long as 100 years.
The alligator snapper mates in early spring in eastern Florida and late spring in the Mississippi Valley. The turtles nest about two months later. Each nest usually contains between about 8 and 50 eggs (the average is 25 eggs) and is usually located about 50 yards from the edge of the water. The eggs are incubated for 100 to 140 days, and the hatchlings will emerge in the early fall.
Even though alligator snappers lay many eggs in each nest, it is impossible to predict how many of the eggs will survive. They are often preyed upon by raccoons, and the hatchlings and juvenile snappers are sometimes eaten by fish, birds or otters.
Because they don’t move around much, the turtles’ ridged backs become covered with algae, making them almost invisible to fish.
Most alligator snapping turtles grow to 26 inches.
Most alligator snapping turtles grow to weigh about 176 although some alligator snappers in the wild have been alleged to reach up to 300 pounds.
In the wild alligator snapping turtles eat fish mainly; also mollusks, other turtles, frogs, snakes, snails, worms, clams, crayfish, insects, medium-sized rodents, and aquatic plants. In the zoo the alligator snapping turtle is fed fish and rodents
Alligator snappers are native to the southeastern United States, specifically the Mississippi Valley between eastern Texas and Florida and rivers draining into the Gulf of Mexico. They’re found in deep rivers and lakes.
On the 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the alligator snapping turtle is listed as Vulnerable.
To learn more about the conservation efforts at the Philadelphia Zoo, click here.
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