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Alligator Snapping Turtle

A large turtle with a hooked beak and textured shell.

Species of Greatest Conservation Need


The alligator snapping turtle is Oklahoma’s largest turtle and the largest freshwater turtle found in North America. Adults may reach up to 250 pounds. These turtles have a hooked beak, three prominent ridges on the shell, and a smooth tail. These features, in addition the large adult size, can help differentiate the alligator snapping turtle from the common snapping turtle.


Adults may exceed two feet in shell length and may reach 250 pounds.


These turtles are found in river systems that flow into the Gulf of Mexico. In Oklahoma, it is now thought to be restricted to east central and southeastern lakes, rivers, and sloughs.

Life Cycle

Alligator snapping turtles are somewhat secretive and spend much of their time in the water. They feed on a variety of foods, including fish, crayfish, mussels, birds, mammals, and other reptiles and amphibians. While they may opportunistically scavenge for food, they may also lure prey using a worm-like appendage located on the floor of the mouth. Males may mature between 11 and 21 years of age, while female may mature between 13 and 21 years of age.

Explore more Oklahoma Reptiles

Gulf Crayfish Snake.  Photo by Tom Spinker/
Photo by: Tom Spinker/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Smooth softshell.  Photo by Sam Stukel/USFWS
Photo by: Sam Stukel/USFWS

Want the 58 amphibian and 94 reptile species and subspecies that can be found within the state's boundaries in book format?  Head to the Outdoor Store to purchase "A Field Guide to Oklahoma's Amphibians and Reptiles".  Each account shares detailed photos of the animal along with a physical description, information about the food and habitat preferences, and notes on the life cycle and habits of the species. Revenue supports the Wildlife Department's Wildlife Diversity Fund.
For information on taking or attempting to take reptiles and amphibians or possessing reptiles or amphibians consult the current regulations.