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snapping turtles

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From: Alan Goralski
Shelbyville, IL
I know that snapping turtles are a part of nature and that they are one creature that you don't really want to mess with, mainly because they have no sense of humor. My question is this...Is there any practical way to forever rid a pond of these creatures and also, can snapping turtles take completely over a pond and destroy all of the fish in it? This includes catfish also.

Extension Message
From: Laura Kammin
Visiting Extension Specialist, Pollution Prevention
Extension-Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program
Snapping turtles tend to have a bad reputation, but they are an important part of the food chain. Unless you drain the pond, thereby destroying the habitat, there are going to be snapping turtles in the pond.

Snapping turtles can be found living in most water bodies in Illinois. Their large size, up to 49 cm in length, and aggressive nature on land often concerns pond owners. While these turtles can be aggressive on land when approached by people, they usually choose to swim away from people when encountered in the water. Therefore, they are not considered to be a threat to swimmers in ponds and lakes.

Snapping turtles lay their eggs in a hole dug away from the water during mid-May to mid-June; otherwise they remain in or very close to their aquatic habitat. If a snapping turtle is found away from the water while laying eggs, it will act aggressively to defend itself. Their strong jaws and long neck make handling or moving them dangerous. If possible, the turtle should be left alone to complete its egg laying and it will return on its own to the pond, river or lake. If it must be moved, handling the turtle by its back legs will be the safest method for both the handler and the turtle. Do not use the long tail of a snapping turtle to carry or move it.

The diet of aquatic turtles includes aquatic weeds, crayfish, insects, carrion and fish, however the snapping turtle’s diet includes a higher proportion of fish. In farm ponds, snapping turtles may eat some healthy fish, but they also help keep ponds healthy by consuming diseased or dead fish and other aquatic animals. They are not likely to wipe out the fish population in the pond.

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