Snapping turtles have long been misunderstood and they are believed to be vicious monsters that are lurking in freshwater lakes, waiting to bite off toes and fingers of unsuspecting swimmers. The common snapping turtle is anything but a monster. Not to be confused with their cousins, the alligator snapping turtle, the common snapper is a very docile and curious creature when encountered in the water. They are very comfortable due to their ability to swim away from threats and they will almost never try to bite people.
People often encounter common snapping turtles on land as they leave the water to lay eggs or migrate to new breeding and feeding grounds. While out of the water, the snapping turtle is slow and vulnerable. It cannot retract its head inside its shell and it is likely to put on a very convincing display of threatening lunges and snapping jaws to deter a predator. For most people, it is experiences and stories like these that contribute to the misunderstanding and the fear of encountering one in the water.
Snapping turtles play a vital role in keep lakes and rivers clean. They eat vegetation, but also rotting carcasses of animals that would otherwise pollute our waterways. A snapping turtle in a lake is a sign of a healthy ecosystem and it is to everyone's benefit that they are allowed to carry on their job as the janitors of the water.