Lots of people are terrified of snapping turtles. We get calls throughout the summer from people who want snapping turtles relocated, or even killed, because they’re afraid that these peaceful dinosaurs will eat their kids or pets. But a snapping turtle in your yard isn’t anything to worry about!
Snapping turtles don’t eat kids or pets. They almost exclusively feed in the water on fish, crayfish, and aquatic insects and don’t have any reason to try to eat a toddler. We certainly don’t recommend letting your Yorkie lick a snapping turtle’s face or sending your toddler outside to play with one, but snapping turtles prefer to be left alone and aren’t going to go out seeking humans or pets to eat.
In the unlikely event that you provoke a snapping turtle and get bitten, their bite isn’t nearly as bad as you expect, averaging about 200 Newtons of force. By comparison, if you were to bite something with your second molars, you can easily exceed 1,200 Newtons.
You may have seen videos of people intentionally provoking snapping turtles into biting thick sticks or broom handles with scary-looking results. Keep in mind, when watching these, that these people are provoking the snapping turtles very deliberately, often repeatedly, and that the only results that make it to YouTube are the ones that look shocking. Disappointing videos of snapping turtles nipping at the stick and trying to be left alone never go viral.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a snapping turtle as your neighbor, please leave it alone! There is no habitat for it better than the one it has already chosen, and it has a right to exist in its home just as much as you have a right to exist in yours. Please give your turtle neighbor the space and respect it needs.