Controlling snapping turtles | Living the Country Life

Controlling snapping turtles

Bait them on a hook, or set a trap. Just watch your fingers!

My aunt and uncle have a beautiful pond that is a welcoming family gathering place. We love to fish, but aren’t brave enough to swim in it thanks to the snapping turtles that wouldn’t hesitate to take a nip at us.

We have noticed that some of the bass had bites taken out of them. Bob Pierce is an extension fisheries and wildlife specialist at the University of Missouri and says sometimes, turtles will eat fish. However, common snappers are basically lazy and are more apt to feed on slower moving and sick fish.

Human fingers and toes are generally not part of their diet, but Pierce says you’ll keep your digits by steering clear.

"They certainly defend themselves, particularly if they’re taken out of water. They tend to be very vigorous in their defense and they’ll bite. When they’re in water, they’re not nearly as aggressive. And they kind of want to hide and escape rather than vigorously defend themselves," says Pierce. "So that’s one of their behavior traits that if you’re in the water, chances are that they’re not gonna come nip at ya."

If you think you have an over-population of snappers, Pierce says you can bait them on a hook, or set a trap. They’re easily caught in shallow areas near beds of aquatic plants or under overhanging banks, stumps, or other types of cover. One of the best ways to trap them is with a “hoop net” that sits under water.

"The turtle walks into the large cylinder at one end, and can’t get out. It’s just a behavior, they’re not gonna back out," says Pierce. "The type of trap that you just set and you hope turtles fall into it like they walk up and drop in, those won’t be any good for snappin’ turtles."

The best time to catch them is during spring, summer or fall. While snappers are in hibernation, they can be taken from old muskrat holes, under old logs, and in soft-bottomed waterways.

Find more tips for the management and control of turtles

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