Aren’t turtles adorable? With those sweet beady eyes and that ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ appearance – it is no wonder they are one of the most well-love exotic pets in the world.
But pet owners may be concerned that their beloved turtle could bite – is there any truth to this notion?
In the wild, turtles will bite as a way of protecting themselves, and this behavior is naturally ingrained. However, when kept in captivity, your pet turtle may bite if he feels threatened. If your turtle does bite you, you should not try to force him off as this could injure him, and remember, he is only behaving in this way because he is scared.
In this post, we will examine why your pet turtle may have had the sudden urge to nip you and what you can do about it if he does.
Why Do Pet Turtles Bite?
On the whole, turtles are gentle animals who live a relaxed life. However, if you keep one as a pet, you will likely find it highly therapeutic to watch him swim around his tank and bask under the heat lamp.
However, like any other animal, the turtle will bite if he feels scared or threatened. This is one of the most effective ways a turtle can protect itself in the wild.
Many people believe that the only line of defense a turtle has is its shell, and while this does provide him with adequate protection, a quick nip or a full-on bite can signal that he won’t be taking nonsense.
Turtles have many predators in the wild, so they need something to warn them off. But when kept as pets, the threat of being eaten by a skunk or a fox is suddenly removed, but that doesn’t mean that his guard won’t be up.
Reasons For Biting
In the main, pet turtles won’t bite. They will only behave this way if they are hurt – one of pet owners’ most common mistakes is mishandling their turtle. This can cause him to snap.
Most people won’t intentionally hurt their pet turtle, but they will certainly know about it if they do.
What’s more, there are some instances where turtle parents have felt a nip because their pet has mistaken their fingers for food during feeding time. While this isn’t an intentional bite, it can be painful.
Finally, a turtle may lash out and become aggressive if stressed. It may come as a surprise to learn that animals can feel stress, but things like moving home can have a massive impact on them.
If your turtle is new to your home, or his living conditions have dramatically changed in recent weeks, this could cause him to feel alarmed and react more viciously than usual.
Breeds Of Turtles
There are more than 350 different turtle breeds, many of which of turtle, and many of these can be kept as a pet. However, in the same way, that some dog breeds are more volatile than others, turtles’ natures will vary depending on the species.
The snapping turtle lets us know from the get-go that it will likely bite. They are named after their greeting behaviors; they will lunge forward and snap when confronted with a larger animal. This is a defensive reaction; they usually back off unless continually provoked.
The most common turtle breeds that are kept domestically are:
- Western painted turtle
- Red-eared slider
- Map turtle
- Eastern box turtle
- Wood turtle
The wood turtle’s first defense will be to retreat into his shell, whereas other species may bite if provoked. It is worth reading about the different breeds before deciding which turtle suits you.
What To Do If Your Pet Turtle Bites You
In an ideal world, all pets would have such a strong bond with their owners that they would never bite them. But in reality, we must remember that these are animals, and it is in their nature to defend themselves this way – regardless of where the supposed threat is coming from.
Sometimes a turtle will give more than just a little nip; they may latch onto you and refuse to let go. More giant turtles can cause severe damage when they bite, but it is important not to panic. This is for the turtle’s safety just as much as your own.
If your turtle has latched on to your skin, do not try to prize him off. Not only could this potentially make the wound worse, but there is also a chance that it will scare your pet even more and cause him a degree of pain.
To properly get him off, you should put him underwater, which will cause him to let go of you. Then, you should immediately back away and allow your pet to calm down.
If you submerge them in water in his tank, you can leave him, but if he is elsewhere, you will need to remove him. The best way to do this is by taking hold of him gently at the back of his shell.
Sadly, in some cases, people have killed the turtle while it has been latched on, but this is unnecessary and won’t help matters. When a turtle dies, it cannot unlock its jaw, so getting it off will prove far harder.
Of course, this is also inhumane to address the situation; after all, the animal only reacts to his fearful emotions.
Treating A Turtle Bite Wound
Once you have successfully removed the turtle and put him safely back in his tank, you will need to tend to your wound.
Turtles can carry certain diseases, such as salmonella, which could make you very ill. For this reason, you should see your doctor, who may prescribe a course of antibiotics. They will also be able to clean and dress the wound appropriately.
Medical attention should be sought as soon as possible, and if the wound is particularly severe, you may wish to attend an emergency facility.
You can clean the wound using warm water and germ-killing soap if the skin is not broken.
Conclusion: Do Turtles Bite?
Turtles make excellent pets, but it is essential to keep in mind that one of their natural defense mechanisms when threatened is to bite.
Turtles will bite when they are scared, if they mistake you for food or if they are stressed.
A pet turtle will not usually behave this way for no reason. Still, if you find yourself the victim of a turtle bite, you must react appropriately by putting the turtle into the water and getting the proper treatment for your wound.
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