Do Sea Turtles Bite People

Do Sea Turtles Bite People? Are They Aggressive?

Sea turtles are often thought to be big and dangerous. But how true is that at the beach?

A common question we’ve seen is: do sea turtles bite people? Some sea turtles relaxing on the beach are small, whereas the ones near the seafloor are larger — but none of them bite. It’s tempting to approach the cute creatures, and you can do without any worries. In most cases, they’re pretty harmless and normally react to human interaction. 

If you purposely aggravate them, though, they might come after you. In this article, we’ll show you everything you need to know about young and adult sea turtles and how to approach them. Let’s start.

Do Sea Turtles Bite? 


Sea turtles don’t bite. They seem aggressive at first with their large snouts and sharp beak. When it’s opened, it sometimes looks intimidating. But little did you know, they’re not meant to bite at all. 

Do Sea Turtles Bite

A set of teeth isn’t present in sea turtles. For this reason, they don’t even bite their food, let alone humans. They have a set of somewhat sharp teeth on the bottom part of their mouths, which is used to grind and tear up food to make it easier for digestion. With a mostly vegetarian diet, their main source of food is soft plants and animals, like seaweed or different types of super-soft jellyfishes. 

Moreover, turtles are well adapted to humans. They live a long life, sometimes around 100 years. It’s highly likely a mature sea turtle you encounter at sea or on the beach has had interactions with humans before the past. They grow accustomed to this and are mostly friendly when we’re around — as long as we don’t annoy them. 

But are there cases where they might bite?

Sea Turtles

Reasons Why Sea Turtles Might Bite You

Usually, sea turtles are peace-loving creatures that almost never get aggressive towards humans. But like any living being, it has reflexes to protect itself if it senses danger. If you aggravate the turtle or do something so that it sees you as a threat, it might come to attack you or draw you away.

This scenario might happen if you come in the way of them eating, hunting, or physically hurting them. As a defense mechanism, any animal would fight back — and sea turtles are the same. So unless you attack them first, sea turtles are highly unlikely to attack you.

Sea Turtle

The best bet is to observe them from afar and respectable distance. Don’t go near them if they’re with their little ones or eating something. Take pictures from faraway spots, and you should be good. 

Can Sea Turtle Bite Off Your Finger or Toe?

As said earlier, it’s highly unlikely for sea turtles to do so. They lack a set of teeth to begin with. And unless aggravated, they won’t attack you.

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This would’ve been different from snapping turtles, who have a high-powered snapping force that could easily take away a finger or toe. But sea turtle bites aren’t nearly strong enough to take away a finger or toe.

Sea Turtle Bite

Young sea turtles are more peace loving and won’t come after you. If you try to touch them, some pesky ones might try to come after you, but without teeth they can’t do any harm. 

Still, it might hurt like crazy, so you better not get too close to the turtles and should respect their space.

What Happens When Sea Turtle Bites? 

In most cases, an adult sea turtle bite will just be super painful. Their biting force isn’t strong enough to deal serious damage, but you might have some swelling and reddening of the spot. You can expect light bleeding too if the bite is super strong. For baby turtles, you shouldn’t feel any pain besides just pressure.

What Happens When Sea Turtle Bites

But don’t worry too much, as first aid will save you from any future damage or infections.

What To Do If Sea Turtle Bites You? 

The first thing you should do is access the wound. In most cases, you should be left with just a few scars or a bruise. Apply a regular bandaid to it if you need to. 

If you see some bleeding, wrap a cloth around the wound. A normal, clean cloth should do. After the bleeding stops, apply a few band-aids, and it should heal itself. 

Sea Turtle

But above all, you should pay attention to whether you’ve distanced yourself from the turtle or not. If it attacks once, it’s likely to be on defense and attack again if you come close. So create some distance between you and the turtle as soon as possible. 

Don’t worry; you won’t face any major injuries or wounds. Just get some band-aid and a cloth, and you should be safe.

Tips to Avoid Getting Bitten by A Sea Turtle

Some safety precautions can be followed to minimize nasty encounters with sea turtles. Let’s go over some now. 

A Sea Turtle

Maintain A Respectable Space

Sea turtles will only attack if you get into their space and threaten them. This can be when they’re eating, trying to find a mate, or hunting for food. 

Female sea turtles can also be aggravated if you approach them when they are with turtle hatchlings. As long as you peacefully observe them from a decent distance, they’ll behave friendly with you.

Don’t Pet Turtles

A ton of injuries from turtles happen because people want to touch their shells or mouth. This is a big no. If the sea turtle feels threatened, it might snap and bite you. 

As they’re wild sea creatures and not completely accustomed to domestication, it’s best if you don’t try to pet them. 

Do Sea Turtles Bite

Don’t Try To Feed Them

It’s best not to feed wild creatures. Although a sea turtle’s snap isn’t as powerful as a snapping turtle, they close down on food with a mighty force. If your hands or fingers get caught, it can get nasty.

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It’s also a good idea, in general, to not feed wild animals. There’s a chance they grow dependent on humans for their food instead of hunting, which ruins the ecological balance. It further increases unwanted encounters with other humans, which might result in injuries for either party. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

By now you should have a rough idea about sea turtles. To help you further, we’ve gathered the most common questions people have asked about them. Let’s walk you through them.

1. Do sea turtles bite in the same way as a snapper turtle?

They’re pretty similar, but the forces differ. Sea turtles don’t have teeth, so they close in on the food by somewhat snapping their mouths. Snappers on the other hand exert a great amount of force which breaks the food into pieces starting from the first snap.

2. Can I get infections from sea turtle bites?

Usually for there to be an infection, you’d need a large enough wound penetrating the skin. In the case of sea turtles, their bites don’t go that far — so you’re highly unlikely to get infections from them. Even so, you should disinfect the area if you get a bit before putting on some first aid. 

3. What should I do if I see an aggressive sea turtle?

Maintain your distance. If you see an aggressive sea turtle, start moving away from it immediately. They behave like this if they feel threatened. So by moving away and showing you mean no harm, the situation can be handled. 

Final Words

Hopefully, by reading this article you’ve learned the answer to: do sea turtles bite people? They usually don’t. But even if you encounter a sea turtle bite, there’s no need to panic. Basic first aid and a band-aid should keep you safe.

As a final tip, we recommend not getting near sea turtles while scuba diving. They’re pretty fast in the water. The last thing you want is spooking one and it attacking you. 

If you bump your head against their shell, that might be a nasty wound as well. So maintain your distance and enjoy this beauty of nature. Cheers!

If you are wondering if florida softshell turtles and mississippi map turtles bite? check out our articles on it.

Do Sea Turtles Bite People

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