There are many varieties of turtle in the continental US. There are a few visual indicators to let you know if you are dealing with a box or a snapper. Snapping turtles have longer tails than box turtles, if it’s long enough to use as a handle, it’s likely a snapper. Box turtles sport yellow markings on their dark shells while snappers are brown. A snappers shell is also flatter, prehistoric looking while the box turtle has a domed shell that is more like the shape of an old army helmet.
The ‘common’ snapping turtle is a large freshwater turtle of the family Chelydridae. Its natural range extends from as far east as Nova Scotia and Florida to southeastern Canada, southwest to the Rocky Mountains. This and the larger alligator snapping turtle are both referred to as snapping turtles. Snappers are known for their belligerent disposition out of the water, their highly mobile head and neck, and their powerful beak-like jaws.
There are many different types of box turtles also found in this region. Ornate box turtles have yellow stripes with a brown shell. Different from the common box turtle, they have a yellow line on the ridge of their shell and a pattern of lines on their shell underneath. Three-toed box turtles are small with plain brown or olive shells that may have yellow lines or marks.
The skin is grayish brown to brown, with yellow, red, orange or white on their front legs and head; usually sporting three toes on their hind feet. Gulf Coast box turtles are the largest of the box turtles. They have brown to deep black skin with white on the chin. Eastern box turtles are among the most attractive and their appearance is varied with shells in light brown to black. Both the shell and the skin are marked with bright yellows and oranges. Florida box turtles have white or yellow radiating lines that decorate their shell and their body is longer and narrower with a higher domed shell. They usually also have two narrow stripes on their head.