Can Snapping Turtles Bite Your Finger Off?

If you are a turtle owner, you surely heard stories about snapping turtles that bite fingers off. But, are they really capable of biting your finger off?

Yes, snapping turtles can bite your finger off. Considering their size, sharp jaws, and incredible biting force, these reptiles can easily hurt you. Read the article below in order to find out more about snapping turtles and their biting abilities. Enjoy!

Real Cases of Snapping Turtles Biting Fingers Off

a snapping turtle about to bite a finger off

Do you know how snapping turtles are hunting in the wilderness? They are sitting on the bottom of the river with their mouth wide open and waiting for their prey to come closer. Their tongue is looking like a red worm and most fish is likely to be interested in such a feast.

Nevertheless, it’s the turtle who will have a feast. The snapping turtle is shutting its mouth once the fish is in it. The force of the bite is so big, that the fish is dying instantly.

Now, are there real cases of such a monster biting a human? Yes, there are many cases when a snapping turtle has cut a finger of a human’s hand.

The first and most stupid case happened at a bar in Alabama. A snapping turtle has become the aim of a bet. The challenge was to reach into the turtle’s month before it shut. As you might understand, there were cases when the person couldn’t take the hand out. The loser of the show has now eight fingers in total.

Another incident happened to a 15-year boy in Louisiana. He found a snapping turtle near a stream and tried to move it to take some photos. As you may guess, he lost his finger in no time. The turtle snapped hard and fast and his left-hand index finger was gone.

The last case we will talk about is when a human finger was found in a turtle’s belly. Once the consumption of turtle meat was legalized, some people started making stews and other dishes using turtle meat. Now, in the stomach of another turtle killed for meat was found a human finger.

Snapping Turtle Bite Force

a turtle biting a machine that measures its bite force

An average snapping turtle can bite with a force of approximately 210 Newtons. On the other hand, an alligator snapping turtle can bite with a force of just 160 Newtons. However, the force of an average snapping turtle is enough to break some tissue and even bones.

If you wonder whether is the bite of a snapping turtle the most powerful, no, it isn’t. The common toad head turtles have more power in their bite. Their hardest bite is almost 432 Newtons. That is actually twice the power of an average snapping turtle.

For example, a lion can get up to 4450 Newtons per every bite. Also, humans can generate a power of around 1100 Newtons on their second molar. So, how do snapping turtles cut off fingers with such a weak jaw?

The thing is, not all snapping turtles have such a weak bite force. Some snapping turtles have recorded a biting force of up to 651 Newtons. Also, their jaw is very sharp and edgy, perfectly designed to use all the force of the jaw muscles.

What Happens if A Snapping Turtle Bites Your Finger?

Only two things can happen here. If the turtle is strong enough and very aggressive, you’ll have no finger at the end of the day. Yes, it is painful and nasty. You’ll see a lot of blood, veins, and muscles torn apart from the force of the bite. However, turtles have such sharp jaws, the cut will look clean enough.

Now, if the turtle isn’t strong enough or you have some mutant thick fingers, you’ll just end up with enough pain for your entire life and some deep cuts, maybe even to the bone. And pray the turtle hasn’t got Salmonella or some other bacterial infection that could mess up your health.

Also Read: American Snapping Turtle Care Guide

Can Snapping Turtles Bite Through Bone?

a man holding a snapping turtle trying to bite

Yes, a snapping turtle can easily bite through bone. Of course, we are not talking about a femur or a humerus. These bones are way too thick and hard for a snapping turtle to bite through them. Also, remember that it needs to cut all the flesh first.

No, we are talking about small bones like the ones we have in our fingers or toes. These bones are far more fragile than the ones I previously mentioned. Also, they have a lot less tissue the turtle needs to cut through.

However, it is not the case to relax around a snapping turtle. While it won’t cut through massive bones, it will surely damage them. With a bite force of up to 651 Newtons, a snapping turtle can easily break your humerus. A crack in the humerus can be seen when a force of up to 300 Newtons is applied. So, a snapping turtle can easily crack or even broke your bone.

Can a Snapping Turtle Bite Your Foot Off?

No, a snapping turtle wouldn’t be able to bite off a whole foot. Assuming you are an adult man or female with some bone strength and muscle mass. For children, however, things are entirely different. A snapping turtle could potentially bite off a children’s foot.

That is because a child has neither the necessary muscle mass to resist the impact nor the necessary bone strength for the foot to stay intact. Also, a child’s bones are way thinner and a snapping turtle would be able to apply pressure to the whole bone, not just a part of it.

In other words, a snapping turtle is able to cut through bone just up to a certain level of thickness. It surely depends also on the size and muscle mass of the turtle itself. If it is an adult turtle with a massive jaw and lots of muscles, it will surely have more bite force than a baby snapping turtle.

To sum up everything on biting off a foot, an average snapping turtle won’t be able to bite off a person’s foot. It is almost impossible for them because our legs have thick muscles and bones to maintain our equilibrium and support the mass we have.

Find out if other turtle species bite.

Has Anyone Been Killed by A Snapping Turtle?

No, no human deaths were reported to have been caused by a snapping turtle. That is because, other than biting you, a snapping turtle has nothing more to do. Its jaws, while being very sharp and strong, can’t get to bite more than a hand or a leg. Also, a snapping turtle is, by all means, a turtle.

It is slow and, while it has a huge jaw strength, it can’t use on a full scale on humans because we are simply faster and smarter than a snapping turtle. Even if the turtle is carrying some infections and bacteria, you can easily go to a doctor and get some medication that would kill the infection and restore your health.

One way or another, a turtle is incapable of killing you. The only scenario I can think of when a turtle would be able to kill a human is in complete wilderness. There, without any medication and help from other humans, a turtle is truly able to kill you. However, even there, the cause of death wouldn’t be the bite itself but the infections or blood loss.

In any way, you don’t have to worry about dying from a snapping turtle bite, it is nearly impossible.

Can a Snapping Turtle Bite Your Arm Off?

Well, theoretically speaking, the amount of force combined with the blade-sharp jaws of the snapping turtle would be more than enough to bite an arm off. For it to happen you just need to find a very aggressive and massive snapping turtle.

However, while it is possible, it had never happened. At least, no authority has ever registered a case when a snapping turtle has bitten an arm off. Also, there are some things we need to talk about here.

If we are talking about biting an arm off in the place where the humerus is, I do believe a big snapping turtle is capable of that. However, I don’t believe a snapping turtle would be able to bite off the arm in the place where the biceps is. That is simply not possible due to the great mass of muscles and the strength of the bone there.

Also, it depends on the size of the person. Of course, if the snapping turtle will try to bite an arm of a little boy, it is possible. However, if it is an adult man that hits the gym and has a great muscle mass, I really doubt the fact that a snapping turtle would bite an arm off him.

What Happens if You Step on A Snapping Turtle?

If you step on a snapping turtle it would be better for you to run fast because it can cause the turtle to become more aggressive and panicked. Once a snapping turtle gets aggressive and panicked, it starts to bite everything it sees, and, no matter how attentive you might be, it can catch your ankle or tear your leg muscles.

The nastiest thing that can happen to you when you step on a snapping turtle is ending up with a calf muscle torn apart. If you haven’t seen a snapping turtle, its jaw looks like a beak sometimes. Now, when you are running, you have some motion and when the turtle is biting your calf with such force, you can either move the turtle or tear the muscle apart. Yes, it is as painful as it sounds.

What to Do if A Snapping Turtle Bit You?

If a snapping turtle has bitten you, you haven’t got many options in order to get out of its jaws. Snapping turtle bites are very painful and nasty. Also, don’t forget about the fact that the longer it holds on your finger, hand, or foot, the higher are chances that some infection has gotten into your bloodstream. So, make sure you follow the instructions below.

The first thing you need to do is to get the turtle off you. In order to do that, you need it to release its grip. Many people believe that causing pain or panicking the turtle will do the magic. However, that is not the case because a snapping turtle will bite you even harder if you’ll start to hit it.

The best way to release the grip of a snapping turtle is by getting it into the water. Once the turtle is in the water, it relaxes and is more likely to release the grip. After it releases the grip, you can either run outside the water or take the turtle by the back of the shell and get it out.

After you get the turtle to release the grip, you need to immediately wash and treat the wound. Almost 90% of all turtles carry Salmonella and other dangerous bacteria. The first thing you must do is wash the wound with some water and soap.

If you see some blood rushing down the wound, you need to apply some antiseptic cream and bandages. Also, it would be a great idea to go to a doctor, do some bloodwork and get antibiotics if necessary.


To sum up everything that has been said about snapping turtles, it would be a great idea to not get close to them. It can snap its jaws at any second and I imagine you’ll need an additional finger or two in your future life.

Also, don’t forget about the fact that, even if the snapping turtle hasn’t bitten you hard enough to cut a finger, its jaws are still filled with lots of bacteria that can cause nasty infections and even death in some cases.

Dorothy Razo

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