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Spotted Turtle

Clemmys guttata

The spotted turtle can be found in small, localized populations throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, preferring to swim and feed in shallow bodies of water and bask on logs, stumps, grass mats and tussocks. (Mr. T in DC/Flickr)
The spotted turtle can be found in small, localized populations throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, preferring to swim and feed in shallow bodies of water and bask on logs, stumps, grass mats and tussocks. (Mr. T in DC/Flickr)

The spotted turtle is a small semi-aquatic species known for the bright yellow spots that dot its dark shell. The species is listed as threatened in several states and endangered on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) Red List of Threatened Species

Appearance:

  • Small species rarely exceeds five inches in length
  • Smooth carapace (shell) is slate gray or black with variable number of bright yellow spots, which can disappear in older turtles 
  • Plastron (underside of shell) is yellow or orange with wide black smudges
  • Head mostly black with variable number of bright yellow spots and often a large yellow or orange blotch on each side 
  • Legs and tail are black with scattering of yellow spots. Lower surfaces of legs and neck are orange to pink or salmon-red 
  • Males and females differ in size and coloring 
  • Male: brown eyes. Tan, brown or black chin. Longer and thicker tail 
  • Female: orange eyes. Yellow or orange chin. Comparatively narrow tail 

Habitat:

  • Prefer shallow bodies of water, including bogs, marshes, swamps, flooded fields, woodland streams and permanent and seasonal pools and ponds 
  • Basks on logs, stumps, grass mats and tussocks 
  • Wanders on land to travel between wetlands and nest 
  • Moist terrestrial sites also used for late-summer aestivation (dormancy during hot, dry periods) and winter hibernation, although overwintering more often occurs underwater in mud or former muskrat burrows 
  • Occupy limited home range of about one to eight acres 

Range:

  • Populations are often small and isolated
  • Found in localized populations throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed
  • One portion of range includes the eastern seaboard of the United States from southern Maine through the eastern portions of Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia and northern Florida \
  • Second portion of range includes the Great Lakes region of Canada and the United States from northeastern Illinois into southern Michigan, northern Indiana, Ohio and western Pennsylvania and across southern Ontario into New York 

Feeding:

  • Feeding begins once spring temperatures reach about 60 degrees Fahrenheit 
  • Feeds on algae, soft aquatic plants, water lily seeds, worms, mollusks, crustaceans, insects and insect larvae, amphibian eggs and larvae and carrion 

Predators:

  • Vulnerable to predation, especially while on land. When startled while basking, will dive into water and bury themselves in mud 
  • Common predators include raccoons and muskrats

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Reach sexual maturity at seven to 14 years 
  • Courtship and mating occur in March, April and May, when spotted turtles are most likely seen 
  • Male pursues female in wild underwater courtship chase, nipping and biting her legs and carapace and fending off rival males 
  • Nesting occurs from late May through June 
  • Nesting females look for open, sunny locations with moist but well-drained soils. Nests are dug with hind feet. Females lay one clutch of one to eight elliptical eggs each year, although some may lay a second, smaller clutch a few days after the first 
  • Incubation takes 44 to 83 days. Young emerge in August or September. Sex of hatchlings determined by nest temperatures during middle third of incubation period (cooler temperatures produce males, while warmer temperatures produce females)
  • Males can live up to 65 years, females up to 110 

Other Facts:

Sources and Additional Information:


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