How to Release a Snapping Turtle Into the Wild

By Judith Willson

common snapping turtle (chelydra serpentina) image by Bruce MacQueen from

You can release a snapping turtle into the wild, but only under certain conditions. If the snapping turtle belongs to a species, or subspecies, native to your region -- and as long as it has not become too tame, releasing him is a possibility. However releasing non-native species can cause serious problems for native wildlife -- if the introduced animals establish themselves. It may also be illegal in your state, to release a captive bred reptile into the wild.

Identify the turtle species. There are only two species of snapping turtle – the alligator snapping turtle, and the smaller common snapping turtle. The alligator snapping turtle has a very bumpy shell and a red worm-like lure in its mouth. The common snapping turtle has a smoother shell and no red lure.

Identify the subspecies, if your turtle is a common snapping turtle. This is more difficult and it will probably be necessary to consult a wildlife expert. Contact a local wildlife group, a reptile supplier or a zoo for assistance.

Examine the natural distribution map for your snapping turtle. If your state is not on the map, don’t release the turtle.

Check the regulations for releasing reptiles in your state.

Contact animal services or a local conservation or animal charity to confirm that releasing the turtle is acceptable on environmental, legal and animal welfare grounds. Ask your contact to suggest a release site, if he agrees that releasing the turtle is an option. In the wild, snapping turtles live in freshwater habitats -- such as canals, lakes, marshes and rivers -- But not all local freshwater sites may be suitable for your turtle.

Put your turtle into the pet carrier: Take him to the release site and let him go.


  • If you are at all unsure about whether or not to release the snapping turtle, don’t. You should re-home him instead. A local reptile or turtle club can help you.

Photo Credits

  • common snapping turtle (chelydra serpentina) image by Bruce MacQueen from


Judith Willson has been writing since 2009, specializing in environmental and scientific topics. She has written content for school websites and worked for a Glasgow newspaper. Willson has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

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