Turtles in Connecticut
How Many Turtle Species Are There?
Currently, 328 species of turtles are known worldwide; 57 (20% of the world's turtle species) are found in the United States and Canada. The United States has more native turtle species than any other country -- it is a turtle biodiversity hotspot.
Twelve turtle species (including 4 sea turtles) occur in Connecticut. Seven of these turtles are currently on the state's List of Endangered, Threatened and Special Concern Species.
Connecticut’s Native Turtle Species
Amphibians and Reptiles in Connecticut
A Checklist with Notes on Conservation Status, Identification, and Distribution
This pocket reference guide, by Michael W. Klemens, includes chapters on materials and methods, conservation, salamanders, frogs, turtles, lizards, snakes, larval cycles, and a checklist. Each species is represented with a color photo, common and scientific names, description for easy identification, and a summary containing history of species, location and population numbers.
Just for Kids Page: Terrific Turtles
Northern Diamondback Terrapin
Diamondback terrapins are the only Connecticut turtles that live in the brackish water of salt marshes, estuaries, and tidal creeks. These turtles cannot be collected or possessed in Connecticut.
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Have you ever wondered if there are sea turtles in Long Island Sound? Although these marine creatures are better known for nesting in the tropics, sea turtles frequent the waters of the northeastern United States. Of the eight species of sea turtles in the world, four have been documented in Connecticut waters in Long Island Sound. (learn more
A Year-long Look at Turtles
Turtles are in trouble. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an organization that maintains a comprehensive list (Red List) of the status of the world's species, categorizes 47% of all living turtle species as threatened. Because of the issues surrounding turtles and the need to raise awareness, Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC), of which the Connecticut DEEP has been a member since 1999, proclaimed 2011 as the Year of the Turtle. Through outreach efforts to researchers, educators, natural resource managers, and the public, the “Year of the Turtle” campaign aimed to increase U.S. involvement in local-to-national turtle issues. State and federal wildlife agencies, along with several conservation and turtle organizations, partnered with PARC to help spread the word about the plight of turtles.
Threats to U.S. Turtles
Humans cause the largest harm to turtle populations, but we have the power to make positive changes toward turtle survival. The largest threats to turtle populations include:
- Habitat loss and degradation;
- Overharvest of wild turtles for food, traditional medicines, and pets;
- Mortality from roads, agricultural machinery, fishing bycatch, and predators;
- Exotic invasive species and diseases;
- Loss of unique genetic make-up due to hybridization; and
- Climate change.
Conservation Action Can Help
Careful stewardship and conservation action can successfully slow or reduce the declining trend of turtles. Because turtles can respond well to population management and conservation, it is not too late to preserve our turtle heritage. Three basic approaches for species conservation include:
- Protecting rare species and their habitats;
- Managing common turtle species and their habitats so that they remain common; and
- Managing crisis situations, such as species in peril from acute hazards, like oil spills.
What You Can Do to Help Turtles
- Leave turtles in the wild. They should never be kept as pets. Whether collected singly or for the pet trade, turtles that are removed from the wild are no longer able to be a reproducing member of a population. Every turtle removed reduces the ability of the population to maintain itself.
- Never release a captive turtle into the wild. It probably would not survive, may not be native to the area, and could introduce diseases to wild populations.
- Do not disturb nesting turtles.
- As you drive, watch out for turtles crossing the road. Turtles found crossing roads in June and July are often pregnant females and they should be helped on their way and not collected. Without creating a traffic hazard or compromising safety, drivers are encouraged to avoid running over turtles that are crossing roads. Also, still keeping safety precautions in mind, you may elect to pick up turtles from the road and move them onto the side they are headed. Never relocate a turtle to another area that is far from where you found it.
- Make your backyard a better habitat for reptiles and amphibians. The Northeast Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation has developed an educational brochure entitled "Your Backyard Guide: Helping Amphibians and Reptiles" to get you started on creating better wildlife habitat in your yard.
- Learn more about turtles and educate others.
Turtle Conservation in Connecticut
Important conservation issues relating to Connecticut's turtles were featured in monthly press releases during 2011 Year of the Turtle.
Learn More About Turtles
What is PARC?
Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) is an inclusive partnership dedicated to the conservation of the herpetofauna--reptiles and amphibians--and their habitats. Membership comes from all walks of life and includes individuals from state and federal agencies, conservation organizations, museums, pet trade industry, nature centers, zoos, energy industry, universities, herpetological organizations, research laboratories, forest industries, and environmental consultants. PARC is habitat focused, and centers on endangered and threatened species and keeping common native species common.
What is NEPARC?
Northeast Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (NEPARC) is a regional working group of Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC). Both the regional group (NEPARC) and national group (PARC) are dedicated to the conservation of herpetofauna – reptiles and amphibians – and their habitats. The Northeast region includes: Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Turtle Art Contest for Kids
The DEEP Wildlife Division and the Friends of Sessions Woods
sponsored an art contest for 2011 Year of the Turtle. All children from kindergarten through fifth grade were eligible to enter an original drawing, painting, or sketch of a turtle native to Connecticut. The winning entries were announced during Turtle Day at the Sessions Woods Conservation Education Center
in June 2011.
The Friends of Sessions Woods Paul Petersen Memorial Fund provided support for the Turtle Art Contest for Kids. The Connecticut Science Center, in Hartford, donated a Family Pass package for each first place winner. Kidcity Children's Museum donated four passes to the museum in support of Turtle Day.
Content last updated on January 6, 2012.