Wood Turtle

Glyptemys (Clemmys) insculpta


Identification
Wood Turtle rangeBrown shell with a sculpted appearance. Concentric growth rings form low pyramids on the large carapace scutes. Neck, limbs and underside of tail are orange. The rear marginals are serrated, which can cause confusion with Snapping Turtles, which have no orange though. Hatchlings bear no resemblance to adults.


Habitats
Wood Turtles are semi-terrestrial, spending significant time both in water and on land. Unpolluted streams with gravel or cobble bottoms, i.e. good trout streams, are fundamental to Wood Turtles presence.


Diet
Wood Turtles are omnivores, eating plants, berries, mushrooms, invertebrates and carrion. Slugs and earthworms are relished.


Behavior
Wood TurtleStreams (see Habitat) are the home base from which Wood turtles fan out to surrounding woods and meadows. In some populations, they return to their stream daily, while in others, streams are rarely visited until autumn to mate and brumate.  Brumation is underwater in muskrat dens, undercut banks or wedged into snags. Communal hibernacula have been reported.

Wood turtles have been seen "stomping" for worms; pulsing their front legs to vibrate the ground and bring worms to the surface.


Threats/Conservation
Wood Turtles are cursed by their biology, not nesting until over a decade-old in Southern New England and more than twenty years in the North.

Wood TurtleNest predation, cars, stream degradation and poaching for the pet trade have decimated populations. Because Wood Turtles move into fields for long periods to feed and nest, agricultural machinery can be a major cause of death.

Wood TurtleFor detailed information about this species, we recommend Turtles of the United States and Canada by Ernst, Lovich, Barbour.

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Project Updates
Michael Jones (UMASS Amherst) continues his work with Wood Turtles. Learn more.

Liz Willey (UMASS Amherst) continues her research on Eastern Box Turtles. Learn more.

Lori Johnson (Antioch) starts her research on Musk Turtles. Learn more.
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