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    Spotted Turtle

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    Overview

    All of North America’s four kinds of pond turtle spend some time on land. The Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata) likes to bask on grassy tussocks in spring. “Spotties” also congregate on partially submerged logs, diving into water when frightened and digging into the muddy bottom. Diet includes crayfish, aquatic isopods, and insects.

    Appearance

    The Spotted Turtle is a small, semi-aquatic turtle with a smooth and low dark colored carapace that is, as its name implies, often adorned with a variable number of round yellow to orange spots. The spotting also extends to pattern the head, neck, and limbs. In some individuals, the carapace may have relatively few spots. However, there will always be at least some spotting on the head, neck, and limbs.

    Male and female Spotted Turtles can be distinguished by plastron shape, as well as by the color of their eyes and chin. Males have a concave plastron, brown eyes, and tan chins, while females have a flat or convex plastron, orange eyes, and yellow chins.

    Hibernation

    Spotted Turtles may hibernate both solitarily and communally. Spotted Turtles have also been observed to return to the same hibernacula on a yearly basis, or to ones occupied by other Spotted Turtles during the previous winter.

    Conservation Status

    The Spotted Turtle is viewed as imperiled in all the states in which it is found. In Illinois and Indiana, they are listed as state Endangered, and in Michigan and Ohio, they are listed as state Threatened. The Spotted Turtle is not found in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri or Wisconsin. The Spotted Turtle has no federal status at this time.

    The specialized wetland habitats used by Spotted Turtles have been widely drained and converted by humans into agricultural and residential land, or modified into more open aquatic habitats not favored Spotted Turtles. Many of the remaining Spotted turtle populations are now very small and isolated. Nests and hatchlings, as well as adult females (during nesting excursions) are at risk from traffic, road grading, and farming equipment.

    Spotted Turtles often nest in open upland habitats, and in many cases, these may include unnatural, human-altered sites such as gravel roads, and open fields. Predation has also been highlighted as a factor in the low recruitment of juveniles to Spotted Turtle populations. Significant numbers of eggs are destroyed in nests by raccoons, dogs, ants and other animals. Over-collection of Spotted Turtles for the pet trade has also been highlighted as a significant threat facing this species.

    Video Credits: Mark Lotterhand
    Image Credits: Ontley, WikiMedia

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