DEEP: Wood Turtle

Wood Turtle

(Clemmys insculpta)

{Wood Turtle}

IDENTIFICATION: A medium-sized turtle, readily distinguished by its sculptured, rough, moderately-domed carapace, black head, orange-red wash on its under limbs, and a yellow plastron with black squares along the edges. Adults 150-200 mm carapace length.

In contrast to Connecticut's other turtle species, the wood turtle is an animal of the northern forest biome, from the Great Lakes eastward through New England and northeastern Canada. Its southern range limit lies near Washington, DC. In Connecticut, the strongholds of wood turtle distribution are the eastern and western uplands. Although once quite common in the Central Connecticut Lowland, many populations have been reduced or even eliminated by habitat fragmentation. This species was never common in the coastal zone of the state. Wood turtles have extensive landscape-scale habitat requirements, requiring clean rivers and large streams with deeply undercut banks for hibernation, as well as extensive areas of floodplain, forest, and fields for summer foraging. Because of their extensive overland movements, they are very susceptible to road mortality. They take over a decade to reach sexual maturity, and have a low egg output, and limited juvenile survivorship. Loss of adults from breeding populations, whether from increased road mortality or by collection for the wildlife trade, is a major problem affecting the sustainability of wood turtle populations in Connecticut. Possession of any wood turtle is prohibited (Conn. Code Sec. 26-55-3-C) in Connecticut without regard to its origin, and collection within Connecticut is prohibited (Conn. Code Sec. 26-66-14-A). The wood turtle is a "Special Concern" species in Connecticut. International commerce in wood turtles posed such a threat that in 1992 this species was placed under international trade regulatory protection administered by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna). The wood turtle is of conservation concern throughout most of its range. Most states and provinces where it occurs afford it special status and/or some form of statutory protection.

Turtles | Amphibians and Reptiles in Connecticut