Living a Zoo Dream – Snapping Turtle

I am a born-and-raised Minnesotan (go, Waseca!) and proud of it. In honor of Lake Superior Zoo Snapping TurtleMinnesota, I wanted to write this week about an animal at the Lake Superior Zoo that is native to our state. Nester is our resident snapping turtle.

Nester was born in June 1999 and will turn 18 this year. In the wild, snapping turtles can live between 20 and 30 years. In captivity, they often live 40 to 50 years. Most people don’t think of turtles as complex animals, but they actually are very intelligent and quite interesting.

The zoo staff has done a lot of training with Nester, and he is now trained to enter a crate for weighing or performing veterinary procedures. Snapping turtles are omnivores but also are cunning predators and will eat anything they can get in their mouths, from birds to fish to snakes.

If you visit Nester at the zoo, you will likely see him swimming and hanging out under Lake Superior Zoo Snapping Turtle Swimmingwater. While turtles need air to breathe like humans, they have the ability to hold their breath for hours if necessary. This is a result of their ability to slow down their metabolism significantly to minimize oxygen consumption. For reference, the Guinness Book of World Records lists the longest human breath-hold at 22 minutes.

In addition to my normal duties (meetings, reports, etc.), last week I got the opportunity to shadow one of our keepers for the morning as she worked the nocturnal building. It is an amazing experience to see the relationship our keepers have with every animal at the zoo, from bats to Pallas cats to the burrowing owls.

This relationship allows them to identify subtle changes in behavior, provide exceptional animal care (including creative forms of enrichment) and share fascinating stories to zoo visitors. The zoo offers keeper shadowing experiences if you’d like to get a glimpse into this exciting world. For more information, go to

Well, that’s my blog for this week. I hope everyone has a great week—and be like our keepers by giving your animals a little extra love.

Corey Leet is CEO of the Lake Superior Zoo. You can contact him at or 218-730-4500, extension 203. Find his blog at and on the Lake Superior Zoo’s Facebook and Twitter profiles.

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