How To Pick Up A Snapping Turtle?

When encountering a snapping turtle, it’s crucial to handle them correctly to ensure both your safety and the well-being of the turtle.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the dos and don’ts of picking up a snapping turtle. You might wonder, “How do I safely pick up a snapping turtle?”

The key lies in approaching from behind and gently lifting from the shell’s midpoint, avoiding its powerful jaws.

We’ll delve into step-by-step methods, tips for minimizing stress to the turtle, and essential safety precautions to remember during this delicate process.

How To Pick Up A Snapping Turtle?

Picking up a snapping turtle requires a careful approach to ensure your safety and the well-being of the turtle. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it:

  1. Identify the Turtle: First, make sure it’s a snapping turtle. They have a large, heavy shell, a thick tail, and a distinctively large head.
  2. Approach from Behind: Snapping turtles have a long neck and powerful jaws. Always approach from behind to avoid their bite radius.
  3. Use Both Hands: Gently lift the turtle using both hands. Place one hand at the back of the shell (carapace) and the other hand near the rear edge of the shell’s underside (plastron).
  4. Lift Carefully: Keep the turtle low to the ground as you lift. This minimizes the risk if the turtle struggles and is dropped.
  5. Avoid the Tail and Legs: Do not pick the turtle up by its tail or legs, as this can cause serious injury to the turtle.
  6. Keep the Turtle Away from Your Body: Hold the turtle away from your body. Their necks can extend surprisingly far, and a snapping turtle can bite unexpectedly.
  7. Move the Turtle in a Straight Line: If you need to move the turtle, carry it in a direction consistent with the direction it was initially heading.
  8. Gentle Placement: When placing the turtle down, do it gently and smoothly. Ensure it’s in a safe, appropriate location away from danger.
  9. Wash Your Hands: Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling any wild animal, including turtles, to prevent the spread of bacteria like salmonella.

Remember, handling a snapping turtle should only be done when necessary, such as removing it from a road or a dangerous area.

In most cases, it’s best to leave wildlife undisturbed. If you’re unsure or uncomfortable with handling a snapping turtle, it’s advisable to contact local wildlife authorities or a professional for assistance.

Importance Of Picking Up A Snapping Turtle Properly

There are several reasons why learning proper snapping turtle handling techniques is important:

  1. Safety – Snapping turtles have powerful jaws and claws that can cause serious injury if improperly handled. Knowing the safest methods will reduce risk.
  2. Preventing Accidents – Snapping turtles often need to be moved out of hazardous locations like roads. If they become agitated, they may dart quickly, increasing accident risk. Proper handling helps move them calmly.
  3. Turtle Welfare – Improper lifting or restraint can injure snapping turtles or add unnecessary stress. Using humane methods shows regard for their well-being.
  4. Education – As habitats shrink, human-turtle contact increases. Understanding best practices for snapping turtle management helps educate people on thoughtful wildlife stewardship.

Following the right snapping turtle handling protocol is crucial for avoiding tragedy. The techniques outlined below aim for turtle, human, and environmental safety.

How To Pick Up A Baby Snapping Turtle?

Baby snapping turtles, from newborn hatchlings to juveniles several years old, have smaller bodies and relatively weaker jaws than fully mature adults.

However, they can still bite, so gentle but confident handling is needed:

  1. Approach slowly and quietly, preferably from the side or back versus head-on. Move deliberately so you do not startle the turtle. Be calm and careful.
  2. With two hands, grasp the top rear third of the turtle’s shell marginally above its legs. Apply firm but gentle upward pressure to prevent downward movement. Be cautious not to squeeze too tightly.
  3. Pick the turtle straight up. Keep clear of the head while still maintaining stability within your grasp. Hold very steadily.
  4. The baby should entirely withdraw its head and limbs into its shell once lifted. Carry the turtle low and close to the ground to prevent falls.
  5. Transport the baby snapping turtle to the desired release location. Put it down gently, give it space, and allow it to exit its shell when ready.

How To Pick Up A Juvenile Snapping Turtle?

A juvenile snapping turtle ranges from around 4 inches up to a foot in shell length. At this larger size, their bite can break the skin and require medical care. Never place your hands near your head.

Use this safe technique instead:

  1. Approach the snapper slowly from behind as you remain calm and move with care. Avoid sudden movements.
  2. Place a clean towel or thick gloves over the turtle’s head and clutch it very gently to restrict head motion. Caution is vital here – do not use excess force and avoid the eyes.
  3. With your free hand, slide under the rear of the shell, ensuring your fingers angle inward, away from the space between the shell and the body. Firmly lift up and backward in one steady motion.
  4. Keep the snapper’s head covered and transported tucked against your body to immobilize it during movement to a safe location for release. Set it down easily shell-side first. Give it ample room before removing any protective covering.
ALSO READ:  How To Take Care Of A Baby Snapping Turtle?

How To Pick Up Adult Snapping Turtles?

Mature snapping turtles pose the highest risk of inflicting harm with their powerful jaws. Their strong legs can scratch badly, too.

Strategies for moving fully grown snapper:

  1. Use thick herding gloves that shield forearms. Avoid snug gloves that impair circulation if bitten. Consider goggles to protect your eyes as well.
  2. Approach the large snapper without hesitation but with heartfelt care. Any timidity can trigger its prey drive. Move slowly and speak reassuringly.
  3. With hands close together for stability, slide broadside under the shell’s edge at its center point. Keep clear of legs. Lift steadily upwards.
  4. The tail may lash firmly. An assistant can gently secure it. Take slow sideways steps to transport, angling the turtle slightly head-down. Avoid lifting high.
  5. Lower snapper gently to the ground at the release area. Provide ample room for it to exit the shell without seeing people as threats. Remove protective gear some distance away.

How Do You Pick Up an Injured Snapping Turtle?

  1. Severely injured adult snapping turtles should be captured only by trained wildlife rehabilitation experts whenever possible. Seek expert assistance first unless the turtle’s life is in immediate peril.
  2. For non-specialists who must intervene due to proximity to hazards like roads, be extremely careful in lifting injured snappers following the adult snapping turtle protocols. Shock exacerbates bite risk.
  3. Use items like blankets or jackets to further limit head/limb exposure during transport of injured turtles. Handle gently – internal or shell fractures may be present out of sight.
  4. Get severely wounded snappers to wildlife veterinarians rapidly. Meanwhile, it aims to provide security, calmness, hydration via wet cloth/sponge, and physical stability. Check for signs of consciousness impairment requiring expert advice per #1.

How do you safely remove a snapping turtle?

Follow these key steps for safe snapping turtle removal if they wind up somewhere hazardous:

  1. Leave adequate distance between you and the snapper initially. Use proper protective equipment like gloves/eyewear.
  2. Approach the turtle slowly and deliberately without conveying a threat. Sudden moves may spook it. Speak in soothing tones.
  3. Restrict head motion carefully using a cloth/glove prior to lifting. Be highly gentle around the eyes.
  4. Firmly grasp the central rear shell edge while angling fingers away from vulnerable spots. Lift steadily.
  5. Hold the snapper’s body snugly against you during transport to prevent lashing injuries. Take gradual, sideways steps.
  6. Lower the turtle gently shell-first once at the safe release zone. Allow space for it to re-acclimate before withdrawing contact protections.

Tips And Warnings To Handle A Snapping Turtle

Leave snappers alone whenever possible; let them remain in their natural habitats undisturbed
Properly identify breed before deciding to capture – often confusion with less aggressive types
Lift large specimens, concentrating grasp to the central rear shell edge
Employ thick gloves & other protective equipmentLift large specimens, concentrating grasp to the central rear shell edge
Carefully restrict head motions first via cloth/towelNever put fingers near head/jaw
Provide a calm setting at release for reorientationAvoid pulling shells sideways/twisting
Transport turtles slowly, bodies shielded snugly against self
Provide calm setting at release for reorientation


Snapping Turtle Bite While Picking Up: What To Do?

Though preventable with proper handling, sometimes accidents happen, and a snapper may lash out quickly while being moved. If bitten:

  1. Carefully work to calm the turtle through quiet, stable movements until it releases its bite. Avoid yanking sharply away.
  2. Wash the bite area extremely thoroughly with soap for 5 full minutes. Apply antibiotic ointment after drying. Covering loosely with clean gauze is recommended.
  3. Be alert for signs of infection – increasing warmth, redness, swelling, pus, red streaks, and swollen lymph nodes. Check temperature, too, for fever.
  4. Even without apparent infection, contact your physician promptly about starting a course of antibiotics following a turtle bite to avoid issues.
  5. Report the bite to animal control officials for statistics tracking and investigation regarding turtles posing heightened community safety risks. Provide capture/release details. Follow law enforcement guidance on further management.

Why Do Snapping Turtles Cross Roads And How To Help?

It is an instinct for snapping turtles to migrate overland when seeking new habitats, food sources, nesting sites, etc.

Unfortunately, roads often intersect their ancient trails. When drivers spot them, follow this road-crossing advice:

  1. Pull safely to the road shoulder, activate hazards, and exit the vehicle only once traffic flow allows. Rushing risks everyone’s safety.
  2. Approach the snapper from the rear cautiously but with care about nearby traffic flow, too. Use the handling tips above to move off the roadway in the turtle’s intended direction without spinning it around. This reduces disorientation-related darting back out later.
  3. Those without proper animal handling gear/training should focus efforts instead on traffic alertness, like deploying cones/signs until wildlife responders arrive. Never compromise personal safety.
  4. After helping a wandering snapper safely across, contact local wildlife agencies so they can consider measures like wildlife road culverts/underpasses to reduce future hazards.


Learning proper snapping turtle lifting and transport methods benefits community safety and environmental stewardship.

With deliberate, gentle technique focused first on head/jaw security, even large snappers can be moved safely when necessary.

Here are some commonly asked questions and answers about picking up snapping turtles:

How do you pick up a snapping turtle safely?

To safely pick up a snapping turtle, approach it slowly from behind, grasp the back of the shell firmly near the rear legs and tail, and lift steadily, supporting the weight evenly from underneath. Keep your face away as you carry it.

Do snapping turtles bite when picked up?

Snapping turtles can bite if mishandled or they feel threatened. Prevent bites by only picking them up when necessary, approaching calmly, confidently grasping the back shell, and carrying them steadily without sudden movements.

What if a snapping turtle bites you?

If bitten, carefully place the turtle down immediately. Wash wounds thoroughly, remove tooth fragments, apply antibiotic ointment, and bandage. Seek medical treatment if severe swelling, redness, increased pain, or fever occur, which can indicate infection.

How do you help a snapping turtle cross a road?

If you encounter a snapping turtle crossing a road, stop vehicles temporarily. Allow it to finish crossing if close to the other side. Otherwise, stand behind the turtle and use proper technique to swiftly pick it up by the shell and carry it across in the direction it was traveling, then release it.

Why do snapping turtles cross roads?

The main reasons snapping turtles cross roads are to move between aquatic habitats, search for nesting sites on land to lay eggs, or while migrating to other areas. Being aware of snappers crossing and helping them safely can save their lives.

My name is Shayan Mondal, and I am a passionate turtle owner and enthusiast who enjoys sharing my knowledge and experience with fellow turtle lovers. As a proud owner of several turtle species, I understand the importance of proper care, habitat setup, and nutrition for these delightful creatures. This website regularly updates the latest insights into turtle health, diet, and conservation efforts.

1 thought on “How To Pick Up A Snapping Turtle?”

Leave a Comment