Did you know that about 90% of turtle hatchlings get gobbled up by predators? Sad, but true.
We are sure you want to know who the killers are. And that’s exactly why we are here.
In this article, we will name-shame the animals that eat turtles. Once you know the killers, you will be in a better place to keep your slow pals safe.
So, what animals eat turtles?
Tiger sharks love chowing down on sea turtles. Whales prefer leatherback turtles. And the poor eggs and hatchlings fall prey to dogs, ghost crabs, raccoons, and birds.
For the whole story, check out our list of turtle predators below.
Table of Contents
10 Predators That Eat Turtles
Ready to learn what predators eat turtles? Take a look at the list below.
Predator #1 – Sharks
Sharks are, well, sharks – the ultimate sea predators. These bad guys will take down anything that moves, from fish to crabs. They don’t even spare their own kind. So, of course, turtles are on their menu.
How do sharks attack turtles?
Depending on the turtle’s size, sharks will either chomp down on the whole thing or just grab a flipper and tear right through it like a bag of chips.
Tiger sharks are the most notorious. They have a reputation for going after sea turtles like there’s no tomorrow. Their secret move is to attack from below. They want those tasty, fleshy parts.
Can’t a turtle’s shell protect him from shark bite?
Breaks our hearts, but no! Sharks have teeth that can pierce through those tough turtle shells like butter.
Predator #2 – Killer Whales
While killer whales, or orcas, are human-friendly, they aren’t so polite with turtles. They have jaw strength like no other, making it easy to crack open a turtle’s shell like a walnut. Since leatherback turtles have soft shells, they really need to worry.
Adult male killer whales teach their young how to hunt turtles. They spin the turtles with their noses to do so. Sometimes, they make the turtle their meal. Other times, they leave the turtle and swim away.
Well, let’s just say sea turtles aren’t their favorite bites. Orcas prefer sea lions.
Predator #3 – Sea Crabs
What other sea animals eat sea turtles?
Sea crabs eat sea turtles. Surprised?
If you thought crabs just randomly sun themselves on the beach, think again! Ghost crabs and surf crabs are pretty hardcore predators.
These sneaky crawlers hang out in their sand burrows during the day, waiting for the perfect opportunity to pounce on an unsuspecting baby turtle. And when it’s time, they grab the little guy and drag him down into their burrow for a tasty snack.
Predator #4 – Snakes
Snakes don’t have the stamina (and teeth) to break and digest a turtle’s shell. So, they eat turtle eggs.
But if a turtle comes face to face with an anaconda or a kingsnake, he must run for the hills! These giant snakes have some serious weaponry at their disposal. They can use their strong grips and whippy jaws to swallow an entire turtle. Yikes!
Snakes also have a pretty nifty sense of smell, so they can easily detect turtle nests and steal those eggs from under the mama turtle’s nose.
Predator #5 – Crocodiles
Moving to the most fearsome predators on the planet – crocodiles. These stealthy killers have powerful jaws, razor-sharp teeth, and lightning-fast reflexes. It means cracking open a turtle’s shell is a cakewalk for them.
Can crocodiles swallow an entire turtle?
They’ll crush aquatic turtles into tiny pieces and gulp them like popcorn.
A crocodile’s hunting strategy is as easy as Sunday morning: chill out, blend into the water or shoreline, and wait for an innocent baby turtle to waddle along. Then, BAM! With the speed of a bullet, the croc chomps down and pulls the poor, shelled fellow into the abyss.
Predator #6 – Lizards
Another reptile on our list of predators are lizards.
Lizards and turtles can’t be friends. As pets, turtles eat lizards. In the wild, lizards are hunters. They make it even by eating turtle eggs.
Monitor lizards, especially, are expert nest raiders. They can hunt flatback turtle nests and make a quick meal out of the eggs.
Predator #7 – Birds
As we discussed, adult sea turtles leave their eggs unprotected after laying them. So, when turtle hatchlings emerge from their nests, they naturally crawl to the water. But they’re slow. It means before they can make it, a seagull or a pelican will snatch them away in a blink.
Sadly, for turtle hatchlings, it’s a race against time.
What birds eat large turtles?
Hawks and eagles like big, savory bites. They spot their meals – large turtles near the shore – from afar and swiftly swoop in for the kill.
The eagle’s sharp talons dig through a turtle’s shell and injure it. If that doesn’t work, they drop the turtle from a great height and try to shatter the shell. Nasty!
Predator #8 – Raccoons
Raccoons may be cute and fuzzy, but when it comes to baby sea turtles, they’re the ultimate villains. These masked bandits are responsible for most sea turtle deaths in Florida. No predator beats them at this game. These clever critters can even unlock gates and get past wired fences.
And the worst part is raccoons don’t just settle for one egg or small turtle. They’ll sniff out turtle nest sites and treat them like their personal all-you-can-eat buffets.
When raccoons hunt turtles, they carry them to a quiet spot to relish their meal in peace.
Predator #9 – Skunks
Skunks might be small, but they have big appetites. So, when laying down their menu, they put turtle eggs as appetizers and young turtles as the main course.
Skunks use their sharp claws to dig out turtle eggs from nests and feast on them. If they’re lucky, they’ll even find a few baby turtles in the mix.
Skunks are crafty hunters. They can smell the eggs and hatchlings, so they don’t need to stick around for too long when hunting turtles.
Besides skunks, weasels, minks, otters, and badgers also enjoy turtle eggs for food.
Predator #10 – Dogs
When it comes to turtles, dogs are like furry wrecking balls with sharp teeth. They can make short work of even the toughest shells.
Dogs dig out eggs and hatchlings, bite off heads and limbs, or swallow small turtles whole.
Coyotes, the wild canines of the plains, also have a taste for turtles.
What’s more, feral dogs can decimate turtle populations in no time. They’ll eat eggs and hatchlings, which can cause an entire nest to disappear in a single night.
So, if you ever spot a dog near a turtle nest, it’s best to get that pup away as soon as possible.
How Do Turtles Fall Prey?
Turtles roamed the Earth with dinosaurs some 110 million years ago. Yep!
From saltwater sea turtles to coastal brackish terrapins, these survival experts have been here for a long time.
What has kept them safe through the years?
Their mysterious, boney, hard-shelled exoskeletons. That’s right — turtles literally carry their own armor!
But even with all this protection, turtles get hunted down.
Turtles are like modern humans when it comes to social life – they prefer to keep it to themselves. The only time when turtles come together is during the mating season. So, they don’t have any extra set of ears and eyes to rely on.
When adult turtles lay their eggs, they go off again, leaving their offspring to fend for themselves.
And so, turtle eggs and young turtles are the easiest targets. They are tiny and slow. Worse of all? Their shells are not as hard as the mature ones. That’s what makes them the easiest of prey.
It is why, when turtles lay eggs, they lay a lot of them. Each nest has more than a hundred developing babies. Sadly, out of these hundred, only a handful survive.
Are Adult Turtles Completely Safe From Predators?
No, they are not.
Not all turtles can fully tuck themselves inside their shells. Adult sea turtles, for instance, can’t retract their heads into their shells. It makes them vulnerable to predators looking for a tasty meal.
Other times, diseases like Fibropapillomas can weaken turtles.
Fibropapillomas. These are wart-like growths on a turtle’s eyes, internal organs, and skin. The condition is common in green turtles – the large sea turtle species.
Fibropapillomas can mess with a turtle’s vision. The turtle struggles to swim and eat his favorite foods. It gets worse when nasty infections and parasites take over his weakened body. It’s like a triple whammy of turtle health problems.
In essence, bad vision + slow swimming + weakened body = an easy meal.
But it’s not all doom and gloom for sea turtles. Their survival rate is higher than that of baby turtles.
Do Turtles Eat Turtles?
Yes, turtle cannibalism is a thing.
Turtles are opportunistic feeders. They’ll eat carrion, plants, and fish. If they don’t find anything else, they’ll eat smaller turtles.
Snapping turtles, the largest freshwater turtles in North America, are known to feast on their own kind. They have aggressive personalities, especially when it comes to territorial disputes. So they don’t hesitate to attack and eat other turtles.
In captivity, turtles may also eat each other due to overcrowding, lack of food, and other environmental stressors.
If you’re a turtle parent, avoid any turtle-eating mishaps. Provide enough room and food to your turtle, and monitor them closely if you think they’re in danger.
How Do Turtles Protect Themselves?
Turtles are not the most fleet-footed creatures on Earth. So, they use some other tricks to save themselves from predators.
Want to learn more? Keep reading.
Why did the turtle refuse to go on a blind date with a predator? He didn’t want to end up being shell-shocked!
Turtles like to keep a low profile. They usually hang out (on their own) in shady and quiet places. They also burrow deep into the mud to keep active diggers like minks and raccoons from finding them.
Turtles can’t dodge all the predators out there. How do they keep themselves safe, then?
Well, turtles have a serious defense game. All thanks to the tanks on their backs – turtle shells. These tough fortresses have a lot of keratin and bony plates. So, not every predator can easily chow them down.
Foxes, raccoons, and even small alligators are no match for these armored wonders.
Turtles are also masters of disguise. They use their natural colors to blend in with the environment and hide from predators.
Some turtles have a mottled pattern on their shells that helps them hide in the mud and sand. Others may use colors to match their surroundings, like green for seaweed or brown for dead leaves.
Turtles are also exceptionally good at playing freeze when predators approach. Slow but smart!
Keep Predators Away from Your Pet Turtles
Turtles can get into trouble even with their super cool defenses. Since you’re the parent, you’ll have to play Ninja here.
Here’s what you can do to keep your pet turtles alive and happy:
- Install a timer-regulated electric fence around their pond or tank.
- Use chicken wire or hardware cloth to cover the top of your turtle’s enclosure.
- Choose a deep water tank with a secure lid.
Predators That Chomp Down on Turtles!
Turtles, although old and tough, are no match for the powerful predators that roam the wild. From the mammals to the birds, it seems like everyone’s after them!
The nasty land crawlers dig them out of nests to feast on their eggs and hatchlings. In the sea, the salty scavengers don’t mind a bit of turtle meat, either. Alligators, sharks, and killer whales make an easy weeknight meal out of turtles.
Hell, even turtles don’t spare turtles!
Now that you know what eats turtles, it’ll be easier to keep yours safe.
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