Chelydra serpentina, The Common Snapping Turtle, is a very powerful amphibious terrapin that spends most of its time submerged in ambush for its prey. C. Paxton photo and Copyright.

With rat-trap jaws Chelydra serpentina, The Common Snapping Turtle, is a very powerful amphibious terrapin that spends most of its time submerged in ambush for its prey according to the literature. C. Paxton photo and Copyright.

I didn’t expect to photograph this beauty in the wild simply because they rarely bask out of water. Highly aquatic, they specialize in lying low, submerged in the freshwater ponds, sloughs and slow-moving rivers of Louisiana to ambush their prey of smaller reptiles, amphibians, small mammals and even small birds. This individual’s head is about 2.5 inches long. Its tail, under the mud, is about the same length as its carapace, so the probable length of this individual is unlikely to be less than 15 inches. We were unable to ascertain whether the flap of loose skin around its neck had rounded tubercles.

My field guides suggest that these powerfully defensive turtles should not be handled because they can deliver a strong bite.