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Wood Turtle Fact File

Glyptemys insculpta

Weight

0.4-1.5kg

(1-3lbs)

Length

14-25cm

(5.5-7.5in)

Lifespan

Wild 12 years

Captive 60 years

Diet

Omnivore

Eggs, Insects, Fruit

Conservation Status

IUCN

Endangered

The wood turtle is found across North America to the east of the United States and Canada.

Like all turtles they have a hard shell on their back which protects them. This is patterned with growth rings which can be used to determine their age. Across the rest of the skin they are colored orange and black.

They feed on a range of plant matter and live animals along with carrion. Wood turtles engage in a unique behavior known as worm stomping to draw food up to the surface.

These animals are threatened by a range of factors such as capture for the pet trade, vehicle strike and habitat destruction or alteration.

Lear more about these reptiles by reading on below.

Appearance

Their back is covered by the shell. The upper shell (carapace) has growth rings. Each scute is slightly pyramid shaped. This is colored brown or grey helping to provide some camouflage in their habitat.

The underside of the shell known as the plastron is colored yellow with black around the edge of each scute.

The skin is colored reddish on the neck and legs and black across the rest of the body.

Their toes are webbed and each ends with a small claw.

An average wood turtle will measure 14-25cm (5.5-7.5in) long with an average weight of 0.4-1.5kg (1-3lbs). The largest recorded individual reached 23.4cm (9.2in) long.

Males have longer tails than the females.

Diet


Wood turtles are omnivores. They feed on vegetation, eggs, mollusks, fruit, flowers, fungus, mushrooms, earthworms, slugs, invertebrates and carrion.

Feeding can take place both in the water and on land.

To capture worms they will thump their feet which is believed to be mistaken by the worms for heavy rain. This draws them to the surface where the turtle can eat them. This behavior has not been seen in other reptiles species.

Wood Turtle

Range

North America is the native home of the wood turtle. Here they can be found in Canada and the United States.

In the United States they can be found in the following states – Wisconsin, West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts and Michigan.

They are possibly extinct in Ohio and their current presence is uncertain in Indiana.

Habitat

These animals can inhabit a wide range of habitats with a need for a hard-bottomed stream or river in which they can swim. These may be within forest, woodland, swamps or fields.

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Reproduction

Males may court females by swinging their head back and forth and pursuing the female. He may nip her while doing this. Older males tend to be more successful when seeking a mate. Mating takes place in the water.

Egg laying takes place during May and June when the female will deposit 6-8 eggs. These are placed in sandy or soft soil along the river bank or in a field or meadow. She then covers this with substrate and stamps it down with her shell.

Females have no part in raising their young.

The eggs will hatch after 67 days. These hatchling turtles are brown or grey and then gradually develop the orange skin tones. Young primarily feed on invertebrates.

Their gender is not determined by temperature as in other species.

Sexual maturity is reached between 14 and 20 years old.

In some parts of their range they have been found to produce a hybrid with the Blanding's turtle.

Behavior

Wood turtles are active by day when these turtles are often seen basking on a log near the waterway. These are often hidden in grass or scrub to keep them safe. This allows them to keep warm when in cold areas.

Basking also assists them to dislodge parasites such as leeches which may be attached to them.

These tortoises are considered good climbers helping them to move around their environment.

During winter this species will undertake a hibernation at the bottom of a shallow stream or river where the water will not freeze.

Wood turtles are solitary outside of the breeding season. Outside of this period they will bite other turtles which come in to their territory.

Wood Turtle

Predators and Threats

Natural predators include racoons. The racoons have been able to increase their population due to humans providing a food source. This has enabled them to live alongside wood turtles and prey on them in areas they haven't previously.

Wood turtle populations are considered to be decreasing. While they may reach high densities in some areas these represent a small portion of their population.

They face a range of threats across their range including habitat destruction and fragmentation including for residential development and forestry practices.

As they move around during summer they will be struck by vehicles or agricultural machines.

These animals are collected to supply the pet trade. Despite having been given protection across almost all of their range they are still illegally corrected.

Previously large numbers were collected for food.

Quick facts

Wood turtles have growth rings on the scutes which can provide a reasonable estimate of their age.

This species was previously classified as Clemmys insculpta.

Their scientific name insculpta comes from a Latin word meaning 'engraved.' This references the engaged texture of the carapace.

These turtles may also be called the skiddlepot or skillpot.

Wood Turtle

Photo Credits

All – Public Domain

References

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

Jackson, T.,2011. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Animals, Birds & Fish of North America. 1st ed. Leicestershire: Lorenz Books

van Dijk, P.P. & Harding, J. 2011. Glyptemys insculpta (errata version published in 2016). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2011: e.T4965A97416259. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2011-1.RLTS.T4965A11102820.en. Downloaded on 26 June 2021.

2017. Wood Turtle. 2nd ed. [ebook] Lansing: Potter Park Zoo, p.1. Available at: <https://potterparkzoo.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Wood_Turtle.pdf> [Accessed 26 June 2021].

McK. Burgess, A., 2021. Glyptemys insculpta – Wood Turtle | Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas. [online] Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas. Available at: <https://www.vtherpatlas.org/herp-species-in-vermont/glyptemys-insculpta/> [Accessed 26 June 2021].

Baltimore, T., 2021. Wood Turtle | The Maryland Zoo. [online] The Maryland Zoo. Available at: <https://www.marylandzoo.org/animal/wood-turtle/> [Accessed 26 June 2021].

Virginiaherpetologicalsociety.com. 2021. Virginia Herpetological Society. [online] Available at: <https://www.virginiaherpetologicalsociety.com/reptiles/turtles/wood-turtle/wood_turtle.php> [Accessed 26 June 2021].

Harding, J. 2013. "Glyptemys insculpta" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed June 26, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Glyptemys_insculpta/

Movementoflife.si.edu. 2021. Wood Turtle. [online] Available at: <https://movementoflife.si.edu/species/wood-turtle/> [Accessed 26 June 2021].

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