Do Turtles Attack Humans? (When And Which Ones?)

Image of a turtle attacking a human

Most turtles will either withdraw into their shells when they sense danger. However, some turtles, like snapping turtles, are fierce. They fight viciously with their kind and are aggressive toward prey. So, this may make you wonder, do turtles attack humans?

Turtles generally don’t attack humans unless they are provoked or captured. Instead, they hiss and try to retreat into their shells when they are threatened by the actions of humans around them. Nevertheless, turtles may bite or snap at humans if they are forced to defend themselves from any danger.

Let’s understand this behavior of turtles in detail.

How Do Turtles Protect Themselves?

Turtles are shy animals. They don’t like to be held or touched.

Hence, it’s normal for turtles to withdraw into their shells at the first sign of trouble.

By pulling the limbs and head into the shell, turtles protect themselves from attackers.

However, to make space for the head and limbs, turtles must expel air from the lungs.

This sudden expulsion of air produces a hissing sound. This sound also serves to intimidate an enemy.

Now, when you keep turtles as pets, they will not warm up to you as cats or dogs do. They may hiss a lot in the initial days.

Although the turtles will slowly adjust to your presence, and the hissing will reduce over time, they may not completely overcome their fear.

When Do Turtles Bite Or Attack Humans?

Rather than stepping up to the danger and facing an enemy, turtles usually prefer to hide in their shells.

However, they may also bite you if you force them to protect themselves.

Although biting is common in the case of wild turtles, pet turtles may also bite their owners.

It’s not easy to predict whether a turtle will bite or not. It depends on the circumstances and personality of the turtle.

Some turtles are more aggressive and will bite at the first sign of danger.

Others will resort to biting only if they can’t escape into their shell.

Moreover, turtles that don’t like being held are more likely to bite. Even turtles with long, flexible necks are more likely to bite.

Also, turtles that can’t completely withdraw into their shells will resort to biting to protect themselves from attackers.

Recommended Further Reading:

Are Turtle Bites Dangerous And Painful?

Once again, it depends on the species and how bad the bite is.

Turtles don’t have teeth. Hence, they don’t bite like other animals. These animals possess beak-like jaws.

They use them to exert pressure on their food and break it up into pieces or chunks.

They use the same process to hurt enemies. However, the pressure they exert will depend on the size and strength of the turtle.

Bites from small turtles can cause pain. However, they will not cause serious injury. The maximum injury is usually a shallow cut.

However, a bite from a large turtle is usually more dangerous.

Due to their larger jaw size, they can exert tremendous pressure when they bite you. It can lead to severe cuts that break the skin.

Regardless of the type of turtle, every turtle bite is dangerous. Turtles may carry salmonella.

When they bite you, they can transmit these germs to you.

Hence, you should seek prompt medical attention after being bitten by a turtle.

In addition, you may need antibiotics to avoid salmonella infection.

Depending on the extent of injury, you may also need a proper dressing for the wound until it heals completely.

Which Turtles Attack Humans?

Most turtles perceive humans as sources of potential danger. Hence, they will be uncomfortable in your presence.

While pet turtles may slowly overcome their fear, wild turtles will always consider you a threat.

Nevertheless, turtles don’t simply attack humans. They will attack only if you threaten them and they have no way of escape.

In this case, they will use their biting ability for defense.

Let us look at the most common types of turtles and whether they attack humans when the need arises.

Do Snapping Turtles Attack Humans?

Both common snapping turtles and alligator snapping turtles cannot completely withdraw into their shells.

Hence, they resort to biting when they feel attacked or frightened.

Snapping turtles are large animals with strong jaws. Hence, their bites cause significant damage.

Their flexible necks and powerful jaws make their bites even more deadly.

Snapping turtles are more likely to bite on land. However, they don’t spend much time on land.

They climb ashore mostly during breeding and nesting time. This makes them more aggressive on land.

Nevertheless, snapping turtles will not chase after humans to attack them. Even if you swim near them, they will ignore you.

They will only attack and bite if you provoke them.

So, do not attempt to pick them up or handle them. You will most likely get bitten.

Due to the strength of their jaws and the speed at which they bite, their bites can cause massive damage.

Do Leatherback Turtles Attack Humans?

Leatherback turtles are gentle animals. They do not attack humans. However, if you disturb them, they can deliver a strong, painful bite. These animals also have very flexible necks. Hence, they can aim well and bite you before you realize it.

Their strong jaws cause significant injury.

For this reason, it is not wise to get too close to leatherback turtles and intimidate them.

Related Further Reading:

Do Sea Turtles Attack Humans?

Sea turtles are gentle giants. These animals prefer to stay away from humans.

They will usually retreat into the water when they sense your presence.

As long as you don’t get too close, sea turtles will not attempt to attack you. However, if you threaten them by getting too close, they will bite.

A sea turtle’s bite can be painful and cause severe damage. It can bruise your skin and even injure your bones.

Do Box Turtles Attack Humans?

Box turtles do not attack humans. They prefer to withdraw into their shells and stay there until the danger passes.

However, box turtles may end up biting you if you handle them carelessly.

Do Red-eared And Yellow-bellied Sliders Attack Humans?

Red-eared sliders and yellow-bellied sliders are popular pets because they warm up to humans.

Once they get used to your presence, their hissing will reduce.

Red-eared and yellow-bellied sliders rarely attack humans.

However, even these animals may bite you if you frighten them or mishandle them.

Do Painted Turtles Attack Humans?

Painted turtles are very docile pets. They are easily intimidated and never attack. They will only bite if they feel threatened.

Do Tortoises Attack Humans?

Tortoises don’t voluntarily attack humans. However, they may mistakenly bite your fingers or toes, assuming that it is food.

Since these animals are opportunistic feeders, they will try to eat anything that looks edible.

Hence, keep your hands and toes away from tortoises if you don’t want to get bitten.

Interesting Further Reading:

What To Do If A Turtle bites you?

If you get bitten by a turtle, it will hold its grip and not release its bite. In such circumstances, never try to open its jaw.

Doing so will only force the turtle to strengthen its grip and cause more damage.

To rescue yourself from its grip, submerge the turtle in the water.

Then wait till it releases its grip. Once it is in water, the turtle will usually relax and open its jaw.

Once it does that, quickly release your hand and step away from the turtle. Seek medical care immediately.


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