Alligator Snapping Turtle

Macrochelys temminckii (State Status: S3; vulnerable)


The Alligator Snapping Turtle is a big, largely aquatic species found along the Gulf Coast and southeast US. They are nearly black or dark brown, with three elevated ridges along the carapace, as well as and extra row of marginal scutes. This species can get larger than common snappers, with males exceeding two feet in length at the upper end of size range, and weigh greater than 200 pounds (Guyer et al., 2015). M. temminckii will ambush-forage as well, but uses a lingual lure to mimic a worm and attract prey. They are almost always found in flowing bodies of water.

M. temminkii, Lamar Co. (MS), © Grover Brown

Identifying Traits

  • Three ridges down carapace back
  • Extra row of marginal scutes (separates from common snapper)


Flowing water bodies, sand-bottom creeks, oxbow lakes


Ambush predator, may be observed moving or crossing between wetlands to nest but rarely observed on land


Fish, other vertebrates attracted to lure

Juvenile Alligator Snapping Turtle, © McAulay Jaunsen