Edible Reptiles

Reptiles are mobile living animals that are cold-blooded and have typically have scales or a bony plate for protection. Reptiles are vertebrates and have four limbs, or in the cases of snakes, descended from four-limbed ancestors. Unlike amphibians, reptiles do not have an aquatic larval stage. Most reptiles lay eggs, however there are some that give live birth. Living reptiles have a great diversity in size, from a gecko that is barely an inch long, up to a nearly 20 foot long crocodile. Extinct reptiles, i.e. dinosaurs, were perhaps some of the largest living creatures on the planet until their extinction.

Human uses for reptiles vary. They are commonly kept in a terrarium as pets, such as turtles, lizards and snakes. A few reptiles are used as food sources, including snapping turtles, rattlesnakes and alligators, however they are much more commonly eaten in the South and Midwest, where they are also more abundant. The skin of reptiles is commonly used in place of leather, for products such as snakeskin boots, or alligator leather handbags and jackets. Live poisonous snakes are also captured and 'milked' in which their venom is collected in order to make anti-venom for snake bites.

Connecticut is fairly limited when it comes to reptiles, likely because of our cold winters. Connecticut has about 12 species of turtles, including sea turtles such as the green turtle and leatherback turtle. There is only one species of lizard in the state, the Five-lined skink. There are about 14 species of snakes, only two of which are poisonous. The harmless Eastern Garter Snake is the most common snake in the state. The two poisonous snakes are the Northern Copperhead and the Timber Rattler. Both of which are very dangerous and require hospitalization if bitten, however neither are typically fatal when treated.

Chelydra serpentina
Common Name: Common snapping turtle
Snapping turtle meat is edible and eaten more commonly in the southern United States. As an alternative, look for canned snapping turtle soup in gourmet food stores. Warnings!

Chrysemys picta picta
Common Name: Eastern painted turtle
Reported to be edible. Like all reptiles, turtles commonly carry Salmonella on their shells and skin and should not be handled.

Coluber constrictor constrictor
Common Name: Northern black racer
Reported to be edible but not recommended.

Heterodon platirhinos
Common Name: Eastern hognose snake
Reported to be edible however not recommended.

Malaclemys terrapin
Common Name: Diamondback terrapin
In the 1900s the species was once considered a delicacy to eat and was hunted almost to extinction. Many nearby states consider it an endangered or threatened species, however in Connecticut it holds no federal conservation status. Look for canned snapping turtle soup in specialty food stores as a reasonable alternative.

Pantherophis alleghaniensis
Common Name: Eastern ratsnake
Like other snakes, they are likely edible, however caution is advised as they may have ingested mice/rats which could have consumed poisons (warfarin being a common rat poison).

Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis
Common Name: Eastern garter snake
Reportedly edible, but not terribly good. One person suggests eating it bones and all. Like all reptiles, there is a risk of Salmonella. Not recommended.

Trachemys scripta elegans
Common Name: Red-eared slider
They are reported to be edible, however the flavor (and smell) has been debated. Please note the risk of Salmonella. Warnings!