The Sunshine State is home to many species of marine, freshwater and terrestrial turtles. In fact, Florida has some of the richest diversity of turtle species in the world. Turtles are reptiles that have wandered our planet by land or sea for millions of years. They are easily identified by the shells (which can be hard or soft) that cover most of their body.

In Florida during spring months (March through May), it is not unusual to come across a turtle in the road, and the most commonly encountered are the freshwater species. One of those is the alligator snapping turtle.

Alligator snapping turtles are the largest species of freshwater turtles in North America and are widely distributed across the state. These prehistoric-looking creatures can reach impressive sizes, ranging up to 30 inches long from head to tail and weighing up to 180 pounds. Alligator snapping turtles are often referred to as modern-day dinosaurs due to their primitive features, such as their long tails; spiky, ridged shell; and pointy faces with their eyes on the side of their head. Their tongues have even adapted into a unique, lure-like appendage that aids in their capture of fish by luring their prey in with little effort, making them quite efficient hunters.

Their diet consists primarily of fish, plants and even other turtles. Alligator snappers live most of their lives in aquatic habitats of fresh and brackish waters, which can be streams, ponds, lakes, rivers or swamps. These cold-blooded creatures breathe air and can stay submerged for up to 50 minutes at a time before coming up for another breath. They can be found on land during mating and nesting season while looking for mates or finding wetland habitats to later lay their eggs.

Like other turtles, alligator snapping turtles are solitary animals that do not rear their young. Their lifespan in the wild averages 10-50 years, though they have been recorded living much longer in captivity. It is perfectly legal to move turtles out of roadways, but always do so in the direction in which they were heading, and always with extreme caution for larger species that can turn their heads.

Alligator snapping turtles are protected in Florida as a state species of special concern. Help keep Florida rich in biodiversity by protecting all of our amazing fauna.

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