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New York Symbols
New York Greeting: This montage depicts three of the state's best-known attractions: the Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty and Niagara Falls.

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New York State Reptile

Common Snapping Turtle

New York State Reptile

(Chelydra serpentina)

Adopted in August 18, 2006.

The common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) was adopted as the State reptile of New York in 2006. Snapping turtle are found across New York State. They were named the state reptile in 2006. They are the largest freshwater turtle in the state, and can grow to 35 pounds, with a shell more than 20 inches long. Snappers live in lakes, ponds, rivers, streams and marshes around the state. They are easily recognized, with their saw-toothed tails and the jagged saw-toothed rear edge of their shells. Between April and November, females lay eggs in a hole in sandy soil near water. When the eggs hatch, the quarter-sized young immediately head for the safety of water. Females lay 20 to 40 eggs the size of ping-pong balls.

New York State Reptile: Common Snapping Turtle

New York State Reptile

The common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) is a large freshwater turtle of the family Chelydridae. Its natural range extends from southeastern Canada, southwest to the edge of the Rocky Mountains, as far east as Nova Scotia and Florida. This species and the larger alligator snapping turtle are the only two species in this family found in North America (though the common snapping turtle, as its name implies, is much more widespread).

Common snappers are noted for their belligerent disposition when out of the water, their powerful beak-like jaws, and their highly mobile head and neck (hence the specific name "serpentina", meaning "snake-like"). In some areas they are hunted very heavily for their meat, a popular ingredient in turtle soup. These turtles have lived for up to 47 years in captivity, while the lifespan of wild individuals is estimated to be around 30 years.

Did You Know?

  • The snapping turtle is a very aggressive predator and one of the largest turtles in North America
  • It often buries itself in the mud with only its nostrils and eyes showing, waiting for unsuspecting prey. These turtles will snap at anything they find threatening. Their snap is so powerful that it can easily shear fingers - so stay a safe distance away!
  • Snapping turtles live 30-40 years on average
  • The snapping turtle is New York's official state reptile

What to look for:

  • Size: 8-20" shell length, 8-35 lbs average.
  • Appearance: Upper shell is tan, brown, black or olive gray with three ridges, called keels.Long tail with jagged saw-toothed ridges
  • Where to Watch: Lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, marshes throughout New York, particularly in slow moving, shallow waters with a muddy bottom. One of the most adaptable reptiles in New York, they are even found in urban waterways. Females move to upland nesting locations predominantly in the early morning or early evening. The preferred nesting locations are within 100 feet of the water and typically occur in sandy or loamy soils, making backyard gardens a frequent nesting location. Where water temperatures are cooler, animals may sometimes be found perched atop rocks that provide easy access back into the water.

New York Law

The law designating the common snapping turtle as the official New York state reptile is found in the New York State Consolidated Laws, STL, Article 6, Section 87.

STL - State
ARTICLE 6 - ARMS AND GREAT SEAL OF STATE
SECTION 87

§ 87. State reptile. The common snapping turtle (chelydra serpentina) shall be the official reptile of the state of New York.

* NB There are 2 § 87's


But the city and state, which had bought Glaser's original logo, did not buy into his revisions. They are sticking with "Common Snapping Turtle."

Note: New York State Empire State Development holds the trademark to the "Common Snapping Turtle" logo, and licenses its use. It cannot be used without their permission.

Taxonomic Hierarchy: Common Snapping Turtle

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
    Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Family: Chelydridae
Genus: Chelydra
Species: C. serpentina

State Reptiles
State Reptiles
Twenty-six U.S. states have named an official state reptile. As with other state symbols, states compare admirable aspects of the reptile and of the state, within designating statutes. Schoolchildren often start campaigns promoting their favorite reptile to encourage state legislators to enact it as a state symbol. Many secretaries of state maintain educational web pages that describe the state reptile.
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