Connecticut is home to a diverse range of turtle species, with a total of 11 different types residing in the state. From the formidable snapping turtle to the endearing eastern box turtle, these creatures offer a fascinating glimpse into the world of reptiles. While some turtles are mostly aquatic, others venture onto land from time to time. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast or simply curious about the unique wildlife found in Connecticut, this article will provide an overview of these 11 turtle species, complete with captivating photos that showcase their beauty and distinct characteristics.
Scientific Name: Chelydra serpentina
Snapping turtles, scientifically known as Chelydra serpentina, are fascinating creatures found in Connecticut. These turtles are known for their unique appearance and intimidating behavior. With a rough, dark brown or black shell, these turtles can grow to be quite large, with males reaching up to 18 inches and females up to 14 inches in length. They have formidable jaws and a powerful bite, making them one of the more dangerous turtles.
Snapping turtles are typically found in bodies of water such as ponds, lakes, and slow-moving streams. They are excellent swimmers and spend most of their time in the water, scavenging for food such as fish, frogs, and even small mammals. However, they are not exclusively aquatic and can also be seen on land, particularly during their nesting season. Despite their intimidating nature, snapping turtles are generally shy and will retreat into the water if they feel threatened.
Scientific Name: Sternotherus odoratus
Musk turtles, or Sternotherus odoratus, are a small species of turtle commonly found in Connecticut. These turtles are popular as pets, despite their sometimes-aggressive behavior. Musk turtles get their name from the musky odor they release when they feel threatened, which has been likened to body odor.
With a dark brown or black shell and yellowish or reddish markings, musk turtles are easily distinguishable. They have a relatively small size, with males reaching about 3 to 4 inches in length and females being slightly larger. Musk turtles are primarily aquatic and can be found in various freshwater habitats such as ponds, rivers, and marshes. They are skilled swimmers and spend most of their time in the water, feeding on small invertebrates, fish, and tadpoles.
Scientific Name: Glyptemys muhlenbergii
Bog turtles, scientifically known as Glyptemys muhlenbergii, are one of the smallest turtle species in Connecticut. Measuring only about 3 to 4 inches in length, these turtles are not often seen in nature due to their elusive nature and preference for wetland habitats.
Bog turtles have a distinctive appearance, with a dark shell and bright orange or yellow markings on their neck and legs. They are primarily aquatic but can also be found basking in the sun on rocks or logs. Bog turtles prefer wetland areas in Connecticut’s marble valley region, where they can find suitable habitats with plenty of vegetation and shallow water.
Scientific Name: Glyptemys insculpta
Wood turtles, scientifically known as Glyptemys insculpta, are a fascinating species found in Connecticut. These turtles get their name from their unique shell, which resembles a piece of wood. With a rough, brown shell and yellowish or orange markings, wood turtles are easily recognizable.
Measuring between 4 and 8 inches in length, wood turtles are medium-sized turtles. They are semi-aquatic creatures, spending the summer, fall, and winter in the water and basking in the sun along river banks during the spring. Wood turtles can be found in various freshwater habitats such as streams, rivers, and wetlands. They are omnivorous, feeding on a wide range of foods including insects, plants, and small vertebrates.
Eastern Box Turtle
Scientific Name: Terrapene carolina carolina
Eastern box turtles, scientifically known as Terrapene carolina carolina, are terrestrial turtles that can be found in Connecticut. These turtles are known for their distinctive appearance, with a domed shell and vibrant colors.
Eastern box turtles are docile creatures and rarely bite, making them popular pets. They spend most of their lives on land, preferring wooded areas and fields. However, during the warmer months, box turtles may venture into wetlands to find food and mate. These turtles have a varied diet, feeding on fruits, insects, and small vertebrates.
Eastern Painted Turtle
Scientific Name: Chrysemys picta picta
Eastern painted turtles, scientifically known as Chrysemys picta picta, are colorful turtles commonly found in Connecticut. With a dark shell and vibrant red or yellow markings on their head, neck, and legs, these turtles are visually striking.
Painted turtles are primarily aquatic, preferring bodies of water such as ponds, lakes, and slow-moving streams. They are skilled swimmers and are often seen basking in the sun on rocks or logs. During the spring, females of this species will come onto land to lay their eggs. Painted turtles are adaptable and can be found in a wide array of aquatic environments, particularly those with abundant vegetation.
Northern Diamondback Terrapin
Scientific Name: Malaclemys terrapin terrapin
Northern diamondback terrapins, scientifically known as Malaclemys terrapin terrapin, are fascinating turtles found in coastal aquatic areas of Connecticut. These turtles are named for the diamond markings on their shell, which are more prominent in males.
While terrapins thrive in coastal areas, females of the species will venture inland to lay their eggs. They prefer brackish waters where rivers meet the sea, such as marshes and estuaries. Northern diamondback terrapins have a varied diet, feeding on a range of foods including fish, crustaceans, and mollusks.
Loggerhead Sea Turtle
Scientific Name: Caretta caretta
Loggerhead sea turtles, scientifically known as Caretta caretta, are majestic creatures that can be found in Connecticut’s coastal waters. These turtles are known for their large size, with adults reaching weights of up to 1,000 pounds, although the average weight is between 170 to 350 pounds.
Loggerheads are listed as both state and federally endangered due to over-harvesting and habitat destruction caused by human activities. They are also vulnerable to boat propellers and ocean pollution. Loggerhead sea turtles are primarily oceanic, spending their lives in the open sea and returning to coastal areas to lay their eggs. They feed on a variety of marine organisms including jellyfish, squid, and crabs.
Leatherback Sea Turtle
Scientific Name: Dermochelys coriacea
Leatherback sea turtles, scientifically known as Dermochelys coriacea, are fascinating creatures that can be found near the continental shelf edge in Connecticut. These turtles are the largest of all sea turtles, with adults reaching weights of between 650 to 1,200 pounds.
Leatherback sea turtles are known for their unique shell, which does not have the typical bony plates found in other turtle species. Instead, their shell is covered in a leathery skin. These turtles are listed as endangered due to overharvesting, habitat loss, and human disturbance. Leatherbacks feed primarily on jellyfish, using their specialized jaw structure to consume them.
Honorable Mention: Atlantic Green Sea Turtle
Scientific Name: Chelonia mydas
Although not yet spotted along the shores of Connecticut, the Atlantic green sea turtle, scientifically known as Chelonia mydas, deserves an honorable mention. This species is known for its vibrant green coloration and can be found during its migrations.
Atlantic green sea turtles are endangered due to various factors including overharvesting of turtle eggs and turtle products, as well as oil spills and beach development. They are primarily oceanic, spending their lives in the open sea. These turtles feed on seagrasses and algae, playing a crucial role in maintaining the health of marine ecosystems.
In conclusion, Connecticut is home to a diverse range of turtle species, each with their own unique characteristics and behaviors. From the intimidating snapping turtle to the majestic loggerhead sea turtle, these creatures contribute to the rich biodiversity of the state. Conservation efforts are crucial in ensuring the continued survival of these turtles and their habitats.