Common Musk Turtle Fact File


The stinkpot turtle has a shell on its back like all turtles which is oval in shape and highly domed. This is colored olive brown or dark grey.

Often the shell is covered with algae which provides additional camouflage.

Common musk turtles have a small lower shell which has a single hinge and this can partially close so the turtle can protect itself.

The face features a pair of bright stripes running beneath the eyes.

Extending from the chin and throat are a pair of sensory extensions known as barbels.

Their body measures up to 12cm (5in) long with an average weight of 0.5-0.9kg (1-2lbs). Both genders are similar in size.


The common musk turtle is a carnivore. Their diet includes insects, crayfish, clams, tadpoles, along with fish and their eggs. Small amounts of plant matter such as algae may be eaten by some individuals. Carrion may also be consumed.

common musk turtle

Scientific Name

Sternotherus odoratus

Conservation Status

Least Concern


0.5-0.9kg (1-2lbs)


12cm (5in)


50 years



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The common musk turtle is found in North America. Here they can be found in the Eastern and Central United States along with southwestern Canada.


They make their home in freshwater environments as they cannot tolerate saltwater. Potential habitats include rivers, lakes, ponds, swamps and streams. Common musk turtles show a preference for slow-moving water.

Most of their time is spent in the water with the species rarely coming to land.

common musk turtle


Breeding occurs in the spring and fall. Breeding is triggered by shorter day lengths. Females may produce as many six clutches each season.

Females lay their eggs in a shallow nest or under debris on the rivers edge. Each clutch may include two to nine eggs which have a hard shell.

These eggs incubate for 60-85 days before they will hatch.

Sexual maturity is tied to carapace length but typically occurs between 2 and 4 years old with males maturing earlier.


Most of their movement is undertaken by walking along the bottom of the stream or pond rather than swimming.

The common musk turtle is primarily active by day but they may also hunt during the night.

Basking is rare for this species and if it is undertaken it most often occurs on a log overhanging the river.

common musk turtle

Predators and Threats

Natural predators of the common musk turtle include birds of prey such as the bald eagle or red-shouldered hawk, American alligators and fish. Eggs are also predated by racoons and skunks.

When threatened these animals will bite and scratch. As a final resort they will spray musk from glands on their body. This foul smelling odor helps to scare away. predators.

These animals are collected for the pet trade. Their small size makes them a popular pet. Other threats include habitat loss, an increase in predators and water pollution.

Quick facts

This species is also known as the stinkpot due to the foul odor they can create from their musk glands. Another alternative name is the marsh turtle or moon turtle.

The species portion of their scientific name odoratus comes from a Latin word meaning 'to have an odor.'

common musk turtle

Photo Credits

Top, Middle One and Bottom

Public Domain

Middle Two

By Uba~itwiki at Italian Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,


Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Animal Experiences At Wingham Wildlife Park In Kent. 2021. Stinkpot Turtle - Animal Experiences At Wingham Wildlife Park In Kent. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 10 March 2021]. 2021. Common Musk Turtle Fact Sheet | [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 10 March 2021].

Belle Isle Nature Center. 2021. Common musk turtle - Belle Isle Nature Center. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 10 March 2021].

Department, N., 2021. Common Musk Turtle | Nongame | New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 10 March 2021]. 2021. Virginia Herpetological Society. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 10 March 2021].

van Dijk, P.P. 2015. Sternotherus odoratus (errata version published in 2016). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T163450A97384475. Downloaded on 10 March 2021.

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