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Trapping turtles 

Sometimes I get an email from people concerned with a 'snapping turtle problem' in their pond. Although I prefare to see the turtles left alone, wherever they are, I can understand the distress of those who are trying to grow some fish in their ponds and one day wake up with half of it gone... !...

After reading some solutions to this problem I have decided to put up some information here about moving the snappers to a new place. A safe way of doing that.

There was a message on one of the message boards which I've read some time ago on the internet - a reply to someone asking for help with catching snapping turtles. The reply was short and simple in description of what the person should do - catch the turtle on a hook and burn it with a blowtorch ! ( that's exactly what the author did himself on his driveway... ) How about those people who shoot them ? Sporty ? Manly ? Shocking ? Yes, at least to me. Unfortunately the truth is that there are creatures like that walking among us, and the sad part of it is that they think its plain funny...
( no comment )

So, here are few words about doing it 'the proper way'.

Before pursuing any type of control method, you should first consider whether or not turtles are in fact a serious probelm in your pond. Unless numbers are high and the interference with other pond uses is severe, it is probably best to leave the turtles alone.
If there are snapping turtles in your pond and you've decided that definitely you don't want them there, the only option left is relocating them.

* The first thing is finding a new place for the turtles, a suitable and safe for their long existence. It should be preferably a large water body, like a lake or river, not so far from the place where you have found them - there is a possibility that it came from there in the first place. If there is none, in case for example when someone just dumped the turtle into your pond, you should search for any other place, again the best a large water body, where you suspect there are snapping turtles living already.

* Once knowing where will be the turtles new home, comes the part of catching it. But again, there are some rules out there and you should first consult with the appropriate government office if and how many turtles can you catch. Sometimes it is completely forbidden, and if removed by the government, there is a chance that they will be distroyed.
( check the rules sending email to the office in your state, province or teritory: For Canada and For USA )
I highly discourage playing Gods, but I am also against beaurocracy and I know that the government does not answer to all the emergencies, for whatever the reason, and some people are left to deal with a situation on their own. When doing that, don't forget that it's your pond and the turtles life is in your hands, and do what you feel will the best for you... and of course the turtle !

* Next caution, more technical, don't use hooks to catch the turtles ! - they swallow the bait whole and you will probably not be able to remove the hook. Leaving the turtle alone like that might result in its slow death.

* Now, coming down to detail, there are few ways of safely trapping a snapping turtle.
Some people grab them with hands in shallow water, but the most efficient and easiest I would imagine would be setting a trap.
There are some sophisticated plans for building a turtle trap, but most of them come down to making a net, leaving bait inside and overnight, the ever hungry snapper - if it is around - should come inside it. ( remember to always keep part of the net above the water level so it would be able to breath - it's not a fish ! )

* Once you will have the turtle in the net - handle if with coution ! ( see handling snapping turtles ). They bite and when big, might inflict a serious wound ( including you loosing a finger ).
But, happily, there is a way of safely handling snapping turtle of any size. DON'T PANIC ! Again, to read more about how to safely handle snapping turtles CLICK HERE.

A Simple but Effective Turtle Trap

It is not difficult to built a turtle trap. Below is an example of a trap which is inexpensive to built yet effective.


  • 4 pieces of BBQ camping grill large size
  • 2 small pieces of BBQ grill
  • steel wire
  • two springs
  • plastic bottles or styrofoam
  • rope

Take the 4 bigger and one small piece of grill and connect them with wire to make a crate.
Make trap door: insert one small piece of grill inside and attach one side of it to the edge of the crate with a wire - make sure that such made hinge will have enough clearence to move freely.
Attach two springs to the bottom of the crate and inner edge of the swiveling trap door and secure with wire.
Make floats: take the plastic bottles ( filled with air and closed ), styrofoam or pieces of dry wood and attach them to the sides of the trap. Use enough of them so the whole set ups top wall, with lets say 10 pounds snapper inside, would always stay few inches above water.
Done !

Turtle Trap

There are ways of improving the trap, like making nicer floats from lacquered wood or instead wire welding the crates - all up to your imagination, but even described above simple turtle trap should bring quite nice results.

Setting the trap

For snapping turtles use stripes of fish or whole fish as bait, although any type of raw meat should work. Place the bait in a sack or wrap it with a piece of rope and attach to the side of the trap inside.
Choose a spot where you have seen turtles before - for snappers preferably shallows close to some submerged branches. If setting a trap in a stream, any place should be OK.
Put it in the water and tie the trap to a solid object on the shore so it would not float away.
Check the trap daily and remove the turtle as soon as you will spot it.

Few Rules to Obey

As the last word, don't forget to leave some clearance between the ceilling of the trap and the surface of the water to let the turtle breathe !
Handle the snapper with care - but don't panic ! It will never jump at you or chace you ! Put it in a solid cardbord box or plastic container and take to its new home as soon as possible - it will save the turtle stress.

More reading & related links:
        Basic snapping turtle info in one file - Introduction to snapping turtles.pdf (116 Kb)  


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