What to do when a snapping turtle snaps at kids

A snapping turtle on a shore. Photo by Brian E Kushner/Shutterstock

Okay, truth: every once in a while—because it’s confused or cornered—a snapper might bite. You. The dog. Or, worst of all, your offspring, who now “hates all turtles forever” and is too scared to get back in the lake.

If Mr. Turtle broke the skin, head to the doctor. And then, “you have to downplay what happened,” says Sam Klarreich, a psychologist in Toronto. “You have to neutralize the reaction to a situation that isn’t actually that horrific.”

First, talk about the bite. How much did it hurt? How quickly did that pain go away? What was scary about the experience? Why might the turtle have done what it did? “Your child needs to be convinced that the turtle wasn’t there to harm them. And that pain from a bite—even though it’s unpleasant—won’t last forever,” says Klarreich.

The next step is to return to the scene of the crime. Junior must have the experience of getting into the lake, swimming…and having nothing bad happen. “You need to ‘get back on the horse,’” says Klarreich. “That holds true for almost anything in life.”

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