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Can Alligators Eat Turtles As Prey? (Can They Even Eat One?)

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Alligators are known for their aggressive nature, but did you know that they also eat turtles? Some species of alligators prefer turtle meat over other types of prey.

Alligator's eye

Alligators are large reptiles found throughout North and South America. They are carnivorous animals that feed primarily on fish, amphibians, birds, mammals, and occasionally reptiles.

The largest alligator ever recorded was a male named “Big Al,” who weighed 1000 pounds.

Although alligators are generally considered dangerous predators, they are omnivores that consume both plants and animals. Turtles are a common food source for alligators, but they are often mistaken for baby gators.

In this article, we look at this in closer detail to tell you that although there are pictures out there of alligators and turtles together, the picture might not be as friendly as you first may think.

The Alligator And The Turtle

Turtles are aquatic creatures that live in freshwater or saltwater environments. They have soft shells made up of calcium carbonate plates and can grow to lengths of 8.5 inches.

Their bodies are covered with scales that protect them from predators. There are more than 300 different species of turtles worldwide.

Alligators are long-bodied, crocodilian reptiles that inhabit freshwater habitats. They are native to most parts of North America and South America.

Most alligators are technically omnivores, but have a carnivorous nature, meaning they do sometimes eat plant matter, but they will mostly eat small amounts of insects, other invertebrates, and larger prey.

Do Alligators Eat Turtles?

Alligators eat turtles simply because they need food, and although they appear friendly in the wild, their instincts as wild predators always set in when hungry.

Alligators are usually hungry when they hunt. If an alligator spots a turtle, he’ll try to grab it, as they can’t afford to be fussy, especially when there is a lack of food in the area.

If a turtle is the most accessible and easiest source of prey, an alligator will not hesitate in the slightest to eat it.

If the alligator grabs the turtle, he’ll drag it into the water, especially turtles that are laying on the edge of the water which makes them easy targets. If the turtle has his back to the gator, they will not stand a chance.

If the alligator doesn’t get the turtle, however, then he’ll leave.

Turtles are slow-moving creatures that are usually found near the edge of rivers, lakes, ponds, etc. They do not move much, and this makes them an easy target.

Young alligators are not yet able to kill turtles, but they will eventually be able to do so when they grow up. This is due to their size, and before adulthood, alligators instead eat much smaller prey such as insects, worms, and fish.

They then venture to bigger reptiles and animals as they grow. 

Although alligators often eat bigger animals when they are fully grown, the fact turtles spend most of their time at the edge of the water makes it easier prey to catch than a deer for example, who only comes to the water for a drink on rare occasions.

How Easy Is It For An Alligator To Catch A Turtle?

Turtles are slow-moving creatures. They’re not aggressive towards other animals and they are also very vulnerable because they have soft skin.

Alligators however are strong enough to crack a turtle’s shell and this makes them easy enough to eat. 

Since they have a carnivorous nature, this allows them to eat anything that moves and is in reach, especially during their feeding period.

An alligator eating a turtle would be as easy as a human eating a pistachio shell. Alligators have an incredibly strong jaw meaning cracking a hard shell like a turtle shell would be relatively easy.

The alligator may even bite off the head first, leaving the body behind.

Can Alligators Eat Turtle-Shells?

Yes, Alligators do eat turtle shells. Alligators are known to eat a lot of different things, including fish, snakes, mammals, birds, frogs, lizards, and many more.

Some people believe that alligators eat turtle shells because they want to eat the meat inside like other prey, but this isn’t true. Alligators eat turtle shells because it provides them with calcium and nutrients.

Alligators can kill turtles in one bite. They crush the turtle’s shell to make a big chunk of meat. Their stomach is made to digest bones and cartilage, and any other hard thing they swallow, making it easy to digest a turtle shell.

Alligators’ jaws are strong enough to do damage to a turtle’s shell before eating. Their teeth can crush bones and their bite force can reach up to 9,452 newtons, which is about 2,124 pounds.

Alligator on grass

They usually do not swallow their prey whole; instead, they break it into smaller pieces.

Alligators usually drown their prey before swallowing it and since turtles hold their breath underwater, it is much easier for an alligator to instead crush their body before killing and swallowing.

What About Snapping Turtles?

Snapping turtles can become prey for alligators, the same as other species of turtles can. Snapping turtles live in freshwater, just like alligators do and so they would normally be susceptible to becoming alligator food quite easily.

Despite them being a more aggressive breed of turtle, alligators can still prey on snapping turtles.

There is a variety of snapping turtles and they are named after their similarities to alligators and the spikes on top of them, they are known as alligator snapping turtles and even though they are similar, they can still end up being prey, since alligators are so much bigger and stronger.

Do They Eat Turtle Eggs?

Alligators do not normally eat turtle eggs as grabbing and eating eggs off the ground can prove tricky with such a long jaw.

The shape of their mouth prevents them from doing so, and alligators instead like to prey on much bigger prey such as turtles.

Bigger prey has much more meat, meaning they’ll have more to eat and will stay much fuller for longer.

Alligator Facts!

Alligators are reptiles that can survive without eating for up to three years. Their metabolic rate slows down when they’re on a fasting period, but they’ll still be around if food is available, and when this is available, they eat once a week.

Alligators are very close to dinosaurs, and they’ve been living for over 180 million years. This could be to do with how long they can survive without food!

Alligators are not one of the smartest animals in the world, as their brain weighs about 8-9 grams on average. This is nothing compared to their average weight of 600 pounds.

They’re able to care for their babies for 3 years.

Similar to turtles, the sex of a newborn depends on the nest temperature. Females are born in colder temperatures and males are born if the nest temperature reaches over 34 degrees Celsius.

Alligators are slow-moving creatures, but can easily evade danger. Their spikes help to protect against predators. Their bodies are covered by spikes that make it tricky for anything to get through their skin.

Alligators are very dangerous animals. They are often seen as vicious predators, but they prefer to eat smaller animals than humans.

They are also known to be aggressive when defending themselves or their territory.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Alligators Eat Turtles?

Yes, alligators are capable of consuming turtles. Although most alligators only consume larger prey items, their convenient location in the water and on the water’s edge makes them easy prey.

Alligators may seem to be friendly to turtles, but their instincts will always set in when they are hungry.

What Is The Bite Power Of Alligators?

Their bite force can reach up to 9,452 newtons — that’s about 2,124 lbs!

What Is An Alligator Snapping Turtle?

There is also a variety of snapping turtles named after alligators, as they resemble alligators and their spikes, they are called alligator snapping turtles.

How Long Do They Grow?

Male alligators can reach 1,000 pounds but on average, grow to about 11 feet (3.5 meters) long and weigh 600 pounds, while females can reach about half the weight of their male counterparts and grow to about 8 feet.

Final Thoughts

If you enjoyed reading this article then please share it with your friends and family and any other alligator enthusiasts!

We hope you learned something new today and are all clued up on the relationship between alligators and turtles.

Although they appear to be friendly, alligators will not hesitate to eat a turtle if it is the closest prey in sight, so don’t be fooled!

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About the author


Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners.Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.