Snapping Turtle Breeding Guide For Beginners

Have you ever wondered what’s involved in breeding snapping turtles? From preparing mature adults for mating to incubating fragile eggs and raising tiny hatchlings, successfully breeding these ancient reptiles takes special care and consideration.

With complex environmental needs and behaviors, managing each step can be tricky for beginners. This breeding guide covers everything a new snapping turtle owner should know – from ideal enclosure setup mating rituals to egg incubation and raising healthy hatchlings.

Whether you are an experienced herpetologist or a new turtle enthusiast, you’ll discover key tips to improve your breeding success.

When Do Snapping Turtles Mate?

The breeding season for snapping turtles depends on the climate where they live. In temperate areas, mating typically occurs in spring and early summer months.

This breeding window corresponds with increasing daytime and water temperatures that help trigger reproductive behaviors.

Some key mating months are:

  • Northern USA & Canada: May – June
  • Southern USA: March-May
  • Wild turtles may breed earlier or later, depending on seasonal shifts. So, the climate is an essential factor to consider when preparing snapping turtles for breeding.

How to Prepare Your Snapping Turtles for Breeding

Getting male and female snapping turtles ready for successful breeding takes some planning and preparation:

Make Sure You Have A Male and Female Snapping Turtle

This may sound obvious, but confirming the sex of your adult snapping turtles is crucial! Mature males have longer, thicker tails and curved claws on their front feet. Females are more prominent with shorter, thinner tails.

Choose Sexually Mature Turtles

Breed snapping turtles that are at least sexual maturity:

  • Females: Around 11-16 years old
  • Males: Around 4-7 years old

Older, proven breeders have higher fertility rates.

Male-to-Female Ratio

The ideal pairing ratio is one male turtle to two or three female turtles. This keeps competition amongst males minimal and gives your best chance at breeding success.

Let the Turtles Cool Down

Two to four months before breeding season, house turtles separately and allow water temperatures to gradually cool to 50-60°F. This winter cooling mimics natural seasonal changes and gets their bodies ready for spring mating.

Provide Healthy Food

Feed a diet of proteins, vegetables, insects, small fish, and a calcium supplement to fuel energy reserves for mating and egg production. Well-fed adults have more tremendous breeding success.

How do you prepare the enclosure for mating and nesting?

The breeding environment is vital to promote natural courtship and nesting behaviors.

Here is the crucial enclosure setup needed:

  • Pond Area: Make a large pool with basking platforms and ramps for easy exiting. Provide ample 82-86°F clean water for mating and egg depositing.
  • Nesting Zone: Offer sand or soil beds at least 2 feet deep for nest excavation.
  • Co-habitation: Let males and females co-habitat the spaced 2-4 weeks before planned breeding.
  • Lighting: Use UV-bask bulbs and natural sunlight to simulate summer light cycles and warming trends. This light regime sparks breeding interest and activity.

How Do Snapping Turtles Mate?

When housed together in peak season conditions, male snapping turtles will begin courting females by sniffing, stroking the face and neck with claws, and nudging their shells with their extended neck and head.

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If receptive, the female will allow mating by staying still while the male uses his long claws to grip her carapace. He then aligns their tails allowing his extended penis to insert into her cloaca to fertilize her eggs internally.

Mating can be very aggressive, and males may bite the female’s legs and neck while gripping onto her shell. Provide ample space so females can fully submerge to avoid unwanted advances from males.

How Often Do Snapping Turtles Mate?

Snapping turtles may mate multiple times with different partners during the April-May breeding months. Females can even store sperm for several seasons, using this retained fertility to produce multiple clutches from one mating encounter.

Throughout breeding, monitor female turtles for aggression from males. Separate and treat any injuries to the neck, legs, or shell if overly battered during mating.

What Happens After Snapping Turtles Mate?

  • Nest Site Selection: Gravid (egg-carrying) female turtles will leave the water in May-July to scout suitable nesting grounds, wandering up to 1,320 feet.
  • Test Digging: Females use their back legs to scoop out shallow trial pits before selecting a site to start egg-laying.
  • Egg Depositing: Digging a flask-shaped nest cavity about 6 inches deep, she then deposits 20-40 eggs and carefully covers them with sand or soil before returning to the water.

So, providing suitable nest beds is critical for a successful clutch.

Nesting and Incubation of Snapping Turtle Eggs

Snapping turtle eggs can be tricky to incubate properly. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  • Carefully unearth nest cavities made by a female turtle. Digging sites usually have slight depressions visible.
  • Extract eggs and place them vertically in incubation containers, packed in a 1:1 ratio of incubation substrate and water by weight. Vermiculite or perlite work well.
  • Incubate eggs at 81-84°F with high humidity between 90-95%.
  • Gently turn eggs weekly to prevent embryo adherence.
  • Hatching takes 75-95 days, depending on temperatures.

How to Determine the Sex of Snapping Turtle Babies

Snapping turtle sex is determined by the temperature of incubated eggs during a critical period of embryonic development:

  • Cooler Temps = Males: Eggs set at 70-75°F tend to develop as males.
  • Warmer Temps = Females: Eggs set at 84-88°F tend to develop as females.

So, you can influence hatchling gender based on your incubation temperatures. Most breeders aim for 80-84°F to get a mix of males and females.

When Do Snapping Turtle Eggs Hatch?

After 11-19 weeks of incubating, baby turtles will use a particular temporary tooth (caruncle) to slice through their shell. This process, called “pipping”, takes 12-48 hours to ultimately emerge from the broken egg.

Newly hatched snapping turtles stay underground for several days, absorbing the last egg yolk before digging to the surface and scrambling to the nearest water source.

How to Take Care of Snapping Turtle Hatchlings

Raising healthy snapping turtle babies involves:

  • Housing hatchlings together in a shallow water setup with a basking area.
  • Feeding commercial turtle pellets, small feeder fish, blood worms, tadpoles, crickets, and vegetables.
  • Performing partial water changes to keep nitrates under 20 ppm.
  • Monitoring temperatures between 75-86°F with basking spots at 90°F.
  • Fast growing, most hatchlings double in size within the first year.

Health and Well-being Considerations

Ensuring proper year-round care of breeding snapping turtles takes dedication. Be prepared for the responsibility by:

  • Having adequate funds for enclosures, equipment, veterinary care, and 10+ years of food and supplies.
  • Educating yourself on snapping turtle hibernation needs and brumation protocols.
  • Sourcing a skilled exotic reptile veterinarian in case health issues arise.
  • Following all laws and regulations for keeping and breeding snapping turtles in your area. Species protection permits may be required.

With good planning and proper housing conditions, breeding these ancient reptiles is a gratifying endeavor!


I hope this detailed guide gives you ample tips to be successful in breeding snapping turtles, from mating and nesting behaviors, incubating eggs, and hatchling rearing through to adult health considerations.

While complex, they are one of nature’s most primordial creatures – making breeding efforts additionally meaningful. Do plenty of research and be prepared before embarking on your snapping turtle breeding journey!

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.

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