This north American species can be found in freshwater pools, lakes, ponds and streams in the south eastern states of the USA as far east as east Texas.
The alligator snapping turtle is an opportunistic feeder using a lure like tongue which it wiggles to attract prey, such as fish, close to their mouth before snapping its jaws shut – which is where the name comes from. They will however also eat other reptiles, small mammals, birds, amphibians and invertebrates, as well as feeding on carrion which it finds.
Most of its time is spent in the water due to its large body mass making it far easier to maneuver in water, especially when hunting.
They do not reach sexual maturity until about 12 years old, but for a species which can potentially live for 200 years (80 to 120 is more common), this is still fairly young.
This species is very popular in the pet trade, and as such is often caught for that reason as well as being hunted for food – at 80kg a large alligator snapping turtle has a lot of meat on it. As such they are now threatened on the IUCN red list and are considered endangered in some states.
We have a single young alligator snapping turtle at the park which lives in a semi aquatic habitat in the rainforest. At a young age they can be very hard to sex so this individual is as of yet un-sexed, however not being planned for a breeding program the sex is not of huge importance at the moment.
A varied diet is given however the staple food for this animal is defrosted mice.