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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Snapping turtles by Lyman Lakes

As the bells rang one o’clock, students on campus quickly came out of the woodwork, eager to make the most of an oddly temperate and cloudless day. I haphazardly snatched my bike and began my swift descent down the hill in front of Lyman Lakes to get to the Lower Arb. Zooming past the islands, I gazed at the water. Then, I saw a flash of something gigantic just below the surface. Round and flat with a long tail, almost two feet long, it took some sleuthing to figure out what I had just seen. It was a

snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina)!


Snapping turtles are Minnesota’s largest turtle species, reaching weights over 65 pounds. As their name suggests, if provoked, they can lunge and “snap” their jaws. Their hard shells can be brown or black, often covered with algae and mud, which makes them especially skilled at blending in with their surroundings to avoid predators. They prefer to lounge around in the shallow areas of water, making it fairly easy to spot them in Lyman Lakes or the Cannon River if you look long enough. Most active at night, daytime sightings often consist only of nostrils and eyes peeking out from the water’s surface.


They are certainly not picky, either. According to a sighting in the 1990s near Crow-Hassan Park Reserve in Minnesota, a snapping turtle grabbed a trumpeter swan’s head while the swan was peering into the water looking for fish. The swan drowned as a result. Although this is an uncommon example of what these turtles can consume, it is not far off from what they typically hunt. They can prey on small birds, insects, frogs, snakes and more. Eating underwater is a necessity, as the water pressure helps them swallow their prey.


Next time you’re around Lyman Lakes, keep an eye out for our local turtles! They lay their eggs in May and June.

A snapping turtle in Minnesota (Kirk Nelson)
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