Do Florida Softshell Turtles Bite

Do Florida Softshell Turtles Bite? Read If You Don’t Want Your Fingers Off!

Many species of turtles show highly aggressive behavior when threatened or attacked. Apalone ferox or Florida softshell turtles aren’t any different. People love to keep this species as pets, but these turtles can sometimes be dangerous.

So, do Florida softshell turtles bite? A Florida softshell turtle will show aggressiveness and can even give tough bites if threatened. Some subspecies of these turtles, like a Smooth softshell or Spiny softshell turtle, will also do the same when handled or panicked. The bite of this species can apply approximately 41.50 newtons of force.

There is more to know about turtle’s behaviors and their aggressive instinct. We invite you to read the complete guide to learn more about Florida softshell turtles. Let’s get started.

Do Florida Softshell Turtles Bite?


Before we answer this question, let’s focus on how fearsome Florida softshell turtles are. This species is very large compared to many other turtle species. Florida softshell turtles can be about 28-61 centimeters long and weigh about 40lb.

Why Are These Turtles Aggressive?

Adult female softshell turtles are slightly larger than male turtles. Though they are large, they don’t possess a bony shell like most other species. Instead, their shell is like hard leather which is considered a soft shell. And due to this leathery skin, this species is more susceptible to attacks. 

Florida Softshell Turtles Bite

Different predators try to hunt these turtles down because of their delicious meat. So, these turtles with leathery shells naturally grow various self-defense mechanisms inside them. One of these mechanisms is biting potential predators or opponents with full force and taking their meat off if possible.

How These Turtles Bite?

Let’s go back to the main question. Florida softshell turtles can bite very strongly with their sharp beaks. When a softshell turtle feels threatened or panicked, it will rapidly bite with its beak. Soft-shelled turtles also have very powerful jaws to leave a deep bite mark on your skin or even tear the skin in some cases.

This doesn’t only happen to humans. Florida softshell turtles are so aggressive that they will bite their own species. If you keep two male softshell turtles in the same pen, they will start fighting. Biting each other is also common.

Florida Softshell Turtles Bite

But they seem to be less aggressive when with female soft-shelled turtles. Most pet owners face turtle bites when handling their pets. This is because turtles can easily get panicked or feel threatened when you handle them. As a result, they will bite you in seconds.

Now that we know whether softshell turtles bite or not let’s know the reasons behind this so that you can be careful.

See also  Do Turtles Have Periods? - Everything There Is To Know!

Reasons Why Florida Softshell Turtles Might Bite You

As you might already know, Florida softshell turtles are highly aggressive and can bite anytime. So, you need to know what intimidates them and encourages them to bite to be safe down the lane. Check these reasons out.

Reasons Why Florida Softshell Turtles Might Bite You

New Habitats

If you bring a new Florida softshell turtle home, it might not adjust to the environment quickly. In the meantime, the turtle can be very aggressive and bite you if you get closer.

Holding It Wrong

You should be careful while holding your pet turtle as it can easily be panicked. If you pick it wrongly, it won’t take a second chance to bite you.

Playing with Fingers

Softshell turtles will feel threatened if you wave fingers in front of it. As a result, it can bite your finger or hand.

Misfed or Not Fed

It can be very aggressive if the turtle isn’t getting enough food. Also, it might sometimes bite  considering your fingers their food.

Crowdy Environment or Small Tank Size

Putting more than one softshell turtle in one pen might make them aggressive. Also, the room they live in should not be crowded. 

Can Florida Softshell Turtle Bite Off Your Finger or Toe?

Though Florida softshell turtles have no teeth, they can apply great force with their powerful jaws and horny beak. According to the Evolution of Bite Performance in Turtles, softshell turtles can exert about 41.50 newtons of force in a powerful bite.

Can Florida Softshell Turtle Bite Off Your Finger or Toe

This can be lower than common snapping turtles or alligator snapping turtles but is enough to make a deep wound on your skin. The biting force may vary depending on the turtle’s age and size.

A fully grown Florida softshell turtle can sometimes apply enough force to bite off your finger or toe. 

What Happens When Florida Softshell Turtle Bites?

As the bites of these turtles aren’t often deadly, you don’t need to worry much about it. In most cases, the turtle bites off some of your skin. As a result, there can be some bleeding from the wound, and you might feel pain later on. 

The bite mark can remain there if it is too deep. But you should be careful in some cases. According to recent studies, if the Florida softshell turtle biting you is wild, it can carry cholera strains. Also, there can be Salmonella in the wild or in captive softshell turtles. So, you might feel sick if these turtles bite you.

What Happens When Florida Softshell Turtle Bites

What to Do If Florida Softshell Turtles Bite You?

When Florida softshell turtles bite you even after all precautions, you should judge the situation and make quick decisions. What you need to do mostly depends on the turtle type and the bite’s severity.

See also  How Can You Tell If A Turtle Is Dead? 8 Tell-Tale Signs To Look Out For

You will need primary medical treatment, including cleaning and treating the wound if the bite isn’t deep. But if your finger or toe is amputated, you might need serious medical treatment.

What to Do If Florida Softshell Turtles Bite You

And if you suspect the turtle to be wild, you should consult an experienced physician to take medical advice to keep from cholera or salmonella diseases.

Tips to Avoid Getting Bitten by a Florida Softshell Turtle

Though these turtles can get aggressive very easily, you can avoid getting bitten by one. Follow these tips to keep from dangerous bites by Florida softshell turtles.

  • Don’t disturb the turtle. Let it be alone most of the time and only handle it while feeding.
  • Keep it in a quiet place where people usually won’t go. Crowd or noise and stress the turtle.
  • Give the turtle enough space and food to remain calm. The scarcity of these can make the turtle aggressive.
Tips to Avoid Getting Bitten by a Florida Softshell Turtle


Check the answers to some commonly asked questions about Florida softshell turtles.

1. Can I train a Florida softshell turtle to stop biting?

Unlike other pets, it is not easy to train turtles to stop biting. If you care for them properly, they might get used to living with you. But this doesn’t guarantee the turtle won’t give a painful bite.

2. Can I fall sick if a Florida softshell turtle bites?

If the turtle is wild and contains harmful bacteria, it might spread germs when biting. As a result, you might fall sick. Florida softshell turtles commonly contain Salmonella, which can cause diarrhea in some cases.

Final Words

Though turtle bites won’t lead you to death, a bite from a Florida softshell turtle can be strong enough to rip your finger off. At least you will have some wound marks to remember the pain.

So, you need to be very gentle while handling a Florida softshell turtle. And you also need to remember the consequences we mentioned here to keep safe.

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

Do Florida Softshell Turtles Bite

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *