Common Snapping Turtle vs. Florida Snapping Turtle

We get asked lots of questions at Backwater Reptiles ranging from how to care for specific animals to behavioral information queries. Name a question – odds are we’ve probably been asked before!

In this article, we’ll set out to answer a question we get asked occasionally:

What’s the difference between the common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) and the Florida snapping turtle (Chelydra s. osceola)?

And because the answer to this question is actually very straight forward and simple, we’ll follow up the answer with some care tips and tricks for snapping turtles.

Common Snapping Turtle vs. Florida Snapping Turtle
Here is a side by side depiction of a common snapping turtle (top) and a Florida snapping turtle (bottom).

Common Snapping Turtle vs. Florida Snapping Turtle

Florida snappers and common snappers are extremely similar in appearance. We’d even go so far as to say that it would take an experienced reptile enthusiast to be able to distinguish between the two.

But there are two main characteristics that mark these species as different from one another – the location where each animal can be found in the wild and their physical appearances.

First of all, the common snapping turtle can be found all across North America in any slow-moving or brackish water environment. The Florida snapper on the other hand, is only found in peninsular Florida.

However, it should be noted that just because a snapper is found in the state of Florida, that does not automatically make it a Florida snapping turtle. That’s where knowing the physical differences between the two species comes in handy.

Truth be told, there are not a whole lot of physical differences between Florida snappers and common snappers and those few differences are not that marked or noticeable.

Both species of snapping turtle have soft spikes on their necks and heads that are known as tubercles. Common snappers have rounded tubercles, whereas the tubercles on Florida snappers are pointed.

The second physical difference between the two species of snapper is coloration. Florida snappers tend to be a warm, light brown in color when they are young. Common snapping turtles, on the other hand, are usually a dark grey or black.

As far as habits and behavior are concerned, both turtles are identical. This means that they have the same care requirements in captivity. Continue reading if you want to find out how we care for our snapping turtles at Backwater Reptiles.

common snapping turtle
Pictured is a common snapping turtle. They are found all across the U.S. in slow-moving or brackish bodies of water.

Snapping Turtle Behavior

Young snapping turtles are relatively docile, but as they mature, they definitely live up to their common name and are known to deliver quite a powerful bite.

Snapping turtles are aquatic reptiles and reside in bodies of water. They can usually be found resting along the bottom of rivers, lakes, and ponds burrowed into the dirt, debris, and silt along the bottom.

Juveniles are more active than adults and will sometimes forage for food, but adults tend to stay in once place and ambush prey as it stumbles across their path.

Although they do live most of their lives in water, snappers can be found on land at times. In Florida, they are commonly seen crossing roads in order to reach new bodies of water.

As far as behavior is concerned, there is noting to mention in the Common snapping turtle vs. Florida snapping turtle conversation, as they are virtually identical in this area.

Snapping Turtle Care

When keeping a snapping turtle as a pet, you will require an aquatic enclosure. It’s not necessary to have a tank filled to the brim with water. A shallow layer that fully allows the turtle to submerge will suffice.

We always place plenty of hiding spaces in the tank as this allows the turtle to feel secure. Logs, hollowed out rocks, and even items purchased from pet store are all great hides.

Even though snappers are not particularly avid baskers, we do always put some sort of platform in the water that enables the turtle to climb out and bask if it desires. This also means that we have a full spectrum UV light on during the day time.

Florida snapping turtle
This baby Florida snapping turtle is lighter in color than a common snapper.

Snappers are voracious eaters and are therefore not difficult to feed. They are true omnivores as well as opportunistic feeders in the wild, so this makes it easy to provide a healthy diet in captivity.

We feed ours everything from feeder fish to worms. You can also try vegetation. The best method is to place a little bit of fresh vegetable matter in the tank daily or even every other day, and remove it if it is uneaten.

Regarding the Common snapping turtle vs. Florida snapping turtle conversation, there is no difference in care between the two species.

Conclusion: Common snapping turtle vs. Florida snapping turtle

Although there are not too many differences between Florida snapping turtles and common snapping turtles, they both make good pets for experienced herpers who can handle their ornery dispositions.

If you are ready to adopt a snapping turtle of your own, Backwater Reptiles has got you covered!