What is the Spotted Turtle?

Marjorie McAtee
Marjorie McAtee
Veterinarian with a puppy
Veterinarian with a puppy

The spotted turtle is a species of semi-aquatic turtle native to the East Coast of the United States (US), and also generally found in large numbers in the Great Lakes region. These turtles are almost always black, with a number of small, round yellow spots decorating the carapace, legs, and head. Young turtles generally have a very small number of spots, but they often develop more and more spots as they grow, such that the number of spots can be a useful indicator of a particular specimen's age. The spotted turtle can reach an adult size of 3.5 to 5 inches (9 to 12.7 cm) in length, and usually matures in about eight to ten years. These turtles can live to be at least 25 years old, and are usually most active during the summer months, while they often hibernate during the winter.

These turtles generally become active in early spring, usually in March. They may begin breeding as soon as they become active, and continue breeding through May. When breeding ends, the females of the species usually migrate to a nesting area, which can be very far from their usual habitat. The female spotted turtle normally lays three to four eggs each year, and she usually buries them about 2 inches (5.08 cm) below the surface of the soil. The eggs must typically incubate for 11 weeks before hatching, at which point the newly hatched turtles usually search out habitats of their own.

Turtles of this species are considered semi-aquatic, meaning that they spend much of their time on land. During the day, the spotted turtle usually comes onto land to feed and warm itself in the sun. Typical prey for the spotted turtle includes spiders, slugs, worms, and snails. At night, these turtles normally return to their underwater habitat. They generally prefer to inhabit wetlands, swamps, ponds, ditches, and bogs.

As a species, the spotted turtle is believed to be declining in numbers. They are listed as threatened, endangered, or protected in many of the US states where they make their homes. These turtles are believed to be very sensitive to pollutants in their native waters, such that declining water quality has been blamed for significantly damaging their numbers in the wild. Wild populations are also believed to be severely threatened by the pet industry, which harvests live specimens for sale to hobbyists.

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    • Veterinarian with a puppy
      Veterinarian with a puppy