Turtles of Alabama

Turtles of Alabama – 30 Species That are Found Here

Alabama is home to 30 species of turtles, thanks to its abundant rainfall and numerous large watersheds. Its list of turtles includes sea turtles, freshwater turtles, and box turtles.

The majority of these turtles are freshwater species, which can be attributed to the high number of freshwater bodies in Alabama that provide suitable living conditions for these turtles.

Below, we discuss the full list of turtles in Alabama. For each turtle species, we’ll focus on physical appearance, average adult size, what they eat, where they live, lifespan, and conservation status.

30 Types Of Turtles of Alabama


1. Green Sea Turtle

 Green Sea Turtle in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Chelonia mydas
  • Common name: Green turtle, Pacific green turtle, Black sea turtle
  • Family: Cheloniidae
  • Size: 2 to 5 feet
  • Lifespan: 60 to 70 years
  • Conservation status: Endangered

The green sea turtle species is classified among the largest hard-shelled sea turtles in Alabama. It can reach up to 4 feet in length and weighs up to 400lbs.

This species is characterized by scutes that run down the middle; they’re 4 on each side. The shell color can be gray, dark brown, or olive with a yellow-to-white bottom shell or plastron.

It also features a serrated beak on its lower jaw and two large scales resign between the eyes.

Males are generally larger than females and have longer tails. The females lay their eggs on the beach and use their paddle-shaped flippers to easily burrow in the sand when laying eggs. A single green turtle can lay up to 200 eggs!

This Alabama sea turtle species gets its name from its primary diet which consists of age and seagrasses (mind you, this diet is responsible for tinting its cartilage green).

Green turtles in Alabama are usually found in tropical as well as subtropical waters throughout the years. They also tend to migrate to cooler temperatures and even boreal waters when the weather gets warmer.

Unfortunately, the exact population of Green Sea Turtles in Alabama is not publicly available. Population estimates for this species can be difficult to determine due to their wide-ranging migration patterns and the need for ongoing monitoring and research.

Conservation organizations and government agencies regularly conduct surveys and monitoring efforts to better understand and track Green Sea Turtle populations, but it can be challenging to obtain precise numbers.

Unique FactAbout Green Sea Turtles in Alabama
Nesting sitesGulf State Park beach in Gulf Shores has the largest concentration
Conservation effortsAlabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, along with various organizations, monitor and protect populations and habitats
RegulationsSpecific regulations in place to protect, including restrictions on beachfront lighting during nesting season
Research focusMonitoring nesting sites, tracking adult movements, improving habitat protection

2. Loggerhead Sea Turtle

 Loggerhead Sea Turtle in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Caretta caretta
  • Common name: Loggerhead, Loggerhead Sea-Turtle
  • Family: Cheloniidae
  • Size: 3.5 feet
  • Lifespan: 70+ years
  • Conservation status: Endangered

Loggerhead sea turtles boast their place as the most abundant sea turtle species in the United States and are found in many states, including Alabama.

These turtles are pretty big and can reach up to 3.5ft in length. They weigh up to 350 pounds and can live for a whopping 70 years or more.

A loggerhead is distinguished by a slightly heart-shaped carapace that’s reddish brown in color, with pale yellow plastron. Some species also feature yellow-bordered scutes.

This turtle species of Alabama gets its name from its large head. It has powerful jaws that enable it to feed on a variety of foods including conch, whelks, insects, jellyfish, gastropods, and algae.

The loggerhead turtles in Alabama are usually found in temperate, tropical, and subtropical waters all year round. However, they also tend to migrate to cold boreal waters on rare occasions, for instance, during El Nino weather.

  1. Alabama is home to some of the most significant Loggerhead Sea Turtle nesting sites along the Gulf Coast, with Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores being a prime location.
  2. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources takes an active role in protecting and conserving Loggerhead Sea Turtles, including monitoring nesting sites and implementing regulations to minimize human impact.
  3. Conservation organizations, such as the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, work closely with the state government to gather crucial data and information on Loggerhead Sea Turtles. They use this information to improve conservation efforts and ensure the survival of this species.
  4. In recent years, the Gulf State Park has taken steps to reduce beachfront lighting during nesting season to prevent disorientation of Loggerhead Sea Turtle hatchlings. This measure is just one example of the state’s commitment to preserving Loggerhead Sea Turtles and their habitats.
  5. Loggerhead Sea Turtles play a critical role in maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem and are protected under state and federal law in Alabama. By working together, conservation organizations and government agencies can help ensure the future of these magnificent creatures for generations to come.

3. Leatherback Sea Turtle

 Leatherback Sea Turtle in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Dermochelys coriacea
  • Common name: leathery turtle, trunk turtle, Lute turtle, luth
  • Family: Dermochelyidae
  • Size: 5 to 6 feet
  • Lifespan: 50+ years
  • Conservation status: Vulnerable

The leatherback sea turtles are found in Alabama state and are known to grow to mammoth sizes (up to 6 feet!). An average adult can also weigh as heavy as 540lbs!

Leatherback turtles usually have black shells. And they differ from other species of turtles with their smooth leathery carapace and skin. Their upper shell is made up of a flexible layer of dermal bones covered by tough and oily connective tissue and smooth skin.

The body of this turtle is barrel-shaped and then tapered to the rear. They have a total of 7 longitudinal dorsal ridges and their whole body is almost completely black, with some variable spotting.

Leatherback turtles in Alabama have tooth-like cusps that work closely with their sharp-edged jaws to enable them to easily feed on jellyfish, salps, and other gelatinous zooplankton.

As for the habitat, these turtles of Alabama are fond of tropical and subtropical waters all year round. But they tend to migrate to cooler, temperate, and boreal waters during warm weather.

Note that this species is highly migratory and can swim as many as 10,000 miles in a year between foraging and nesting grounds. They’re also excellent divers—with the deepest diving record standing at whopping 4,000 feet!

Here are some unique facts about Leatherback Sea Turtles, specifically in Alabama:

  1. Leatherback Sea Turtles are a protected species in Alabama, and it is illegal to harm or harass them.
  2. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is actively involved in Leatherback Sea Turtle conservation efforts, including monitoring and protecting nesting sites.
  3. In recent years, the Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores has become an important nesting site for Leatherback Sea Turtles in Alabama.
  4. The Gulf State Park has taken steps to protect Leatherback Sea Turtles by reducing beachfront lighting during nesting season to prevent the disorientation of hatchlings.
  5. Conservation organizations, such as the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, also play an important role in Leatherback Sea Turtle conservation in Alabama. The organization conducts research and monitoring efforts to better understand and protect Leatherback Sea Turtle populations.

4. Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle

 Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Lepidochelys kempi
  • Common name: Atlantic ridley sea turtle,
  • Family: Cheloniidae
  • Size: 2+ feet
  • Lifespan: 30+ years
  • Conservation status: Critically endangered

Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is the smallest species of all the sea turtles in Alabama. The average adult size is about 2 feet and weighs approx. 110 lbs. They have adapted flippers (front limbs) and a beak.

This turtle is the rarest sea turtle species and is one of the world’s most endangered species. The species is called Kemp’s ridley because Richard Moore Kemp of Key West was the first to send its specimen to Samuel Garman at Harvard university. However, the origin of the name ridley is still unclear.

Note that these turtles tend to change their color as they age. Baby turtles feature dark purple color along the sides which turns into yellow-green as they mature.

Kemp Ridley is also the only sea turtle that nests during the day.

These Alabama turtles also practice Arribada nesting, which involves all the females nesting together in a tight group. This helps them protect themselves better from predators as well as help their hatchlings easily make it to the open ocean.

5. Hawksbill Sea Turtle

 Hawksbill Sea Turtle in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Eretmochelys imbricata
  • Common name: hawksbill turtle
  • Family: Cheloniidae
  • Size: 2.5 to 3 feet
  • Lifespan: 50 to 60 years
  • Conservation status: Critically endangered

Hawksbill sea turtles have been found in Alabama, with the most recent encounter being at Orange Beach, Alabama on 9th June 2020.

The adult has an average size of 3 feet and weighs around 180 pounds. The shell of this turtle features amber upper shell with irregular light and dark streaks. They also feature predominant black and molten-brown easily radiating to the sides.

The shell tends to change color depending on the water temperatures.

This colored and patterned shell makes this turtle highly valuable and is commonly sold as “tortoiseshell” in the markets.

The hawkbill turtle is so named due to its narrow, pointed beak. It also has a distinctive pattern of overlapping scales on its shells which form a serrated look on the edges.

These turtles mainly feed on the sponge which they easily extract from reef crevices with the help of their narrow, pointed beaks. They also feed on jellyfish.

Hawkbill turtles are generally found in tropical oceans throughout the world. While they live in the open ocean, they tend to spend more time in coral reefs and shallow lagoons in Alabama.

During nesting, a female hawkbill turtle will look for small coves, “pocket” beaches, or inlets surrounded by rocks. They tend to travel high up the beach to lay eggs in shelters formed by the plants.

6. Common Snapping Turtle

 Common Snapping Turtle in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Chelydra serpentina
  • Common name: Snapping Turtle
  • Family: Chelydridae
  • Size: 8 to 18 1/2 inches
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years or more
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

Common snapping turtles are widespread throughout Alabama. An average adult is pretty large and has a shell length of 18½ inches long.

This species has a chunky head, a long tail, and large webbed feet. The shell color is black or olive and has no distinct pattern. These Alabama snapping turtles are known for their powerful jaws—they’re so strong that these turtles eat other turtles!

You’ll find them in waterbodies with muddy bottoms. Examples include marshes, ponds, lakes, rivers, and even shallow streams. They generally prefer waters with aquatic vegetation in plenty and foods such as fish, frogs, birds, etc.

These Alabama turtles generally show docile behavior but can get quite aggressive if taken out of water. The best way to calm it is to take it back to the waters, where it feels safe.

7. Alligator Snapping Turtle

 Alligator Snapping Turtle in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Macroclemys temminckii
  • Common name: Alligator snapping turtle, Snapping turtle
  • Family: Chelydridae
  • Size: 15 to 26 inches
  • Lifespan: 80 to 120 years
  • Conservation status: Vulnerable

The alligator snapping turtle is the largest freshwater turtle in Alabama. This species is large than the common snapping turtle. An adult alligator snapping turtle weighs 15 to 20 inches long.

An alligator turtle is characterized by a long, tough shell with trigonal ridges that resemble the back of an alligator (hence the name alligator turtle). Shell coloring can be black, olive, or brown. Though some people believe that the green tips on the shell ridges are natural, they’re simply algae.

These alligator turtles also prefer living in deeper waters of rivers, canals, lakes, and swamps in Alabama.

As omnivorous species, they hunt their prey (but not actively). They have a unique way of hunting where they lie at the bottom of the water body and open their mouth to show their pink work-like appendage to lure their prey. And when the prey gets close enough, the turtle ambushes it!

Another interesting fact about this turtle is its powerful jaws which can bite with a force of up to 1000lbs!

This makes them extremely dangerous turtles and should NEVER be handled in the wild! Mind you, they have injured even the most experienced herpetologists with their bites.

8. Southern Painted Turtle

 Southern Painted Turtle in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Chrysemys dorsalis
  • Common name: Painted Turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 4 to 6 inches
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The Southern painted turtle is a sub-species of painted turtle and the smallest of the painted turtle species in Alabama. It prefers living in shallow water habits such as on edges of lakes and streams.

The average adult size ranges from 4 to 5 inches and is characterized by a distinctive orange or red stripe running down the back of its shell. They also feature a plain, pale-yellow skin belly (plastron) that’s sometimes lightly spotted.

Baby southern painted turtles tend to eat more meat and less vegetation. And as they grow up, they concentrate more on vegetation and less on animal matter.

Nonetheless, these turtles are omnivorous, just like other species. Some of the most common foods for this species include algae, duckweed, dragonfly larvae, and young crayfish.

Most folks like keeping these turtles as a pet due to their small size and unique color patterns on their shells. Not to forget they can live for quite a long time—up to 50 years—and most pet owners end up releasing them back into the wild in Alabama.

9. Eastern Painted Turtle

 Eastern Painted Turtle in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Chrysemys picta
  • Common name: Painted Turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 4 to 6 inches
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The Eastern painted turtle is one of the most recognizable turtle species in Alabama, thanks to its beautiful and unique coloring. The bright reds and yellow-green markings on its shell, head, and limbs are no doubt a beauty to behold!

This painted turtle sub-species in Alabama has been observed to live near water bodies with minimal movements. Examples include marshes, ponds, slow-moving streams with sandy/muddy bottoms, small lakes, etc.

See also  Types of Chicken Turtles

They also prefer areas with aquatic plants in plenty as they make their primary food source in the wild.

One interesting fact about these Alabama turtles is their ability to hold their breath for up to 30 hours when inside temperate water. Moreover, they’re capable of standing dominant in freezing cold waters for up to 4 months.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to establish the population of these turtles in Alabama. This is because most people who pet them end up releasing them back into the wild. This contributes to an ever-expanding range plus unstable reproduction rates for these turtles.

10. Alabama Map Turtle

 Alabama Map Turtle in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Graptemys pulchra
  • Common name: Alabama Map Turtle, Sawback
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 3.5 to 5.25 inches (males), 7 to 11.5 inches (females)
  • Lifespan: 50+ years
  • Conservation status: Near threatened

This species of turtle is ONLY found in Mobile Bay Drainage System in Alabama, hence the name Alabama map turtle.

It is easily identifiable by a spiny black line that runs down the middle of its shell. They get the name “map” from the map-like markings on their shell back.

The Alabama turtles are medium-sized (though males are smaller than females) and are pretty shy. They’re known to slip into the water in case of any disturbance or danger. Their carapace is usually brown with faint yellow, orange, or green markings.

Juveniles are usually bright-colored, but their coloration tends to fade over time. The spiny back of these turtles also tends to wear as they age, especially for adult females.

These Alabama map turtles are omnivorous, and their diet mainly consists of aquatic plants. However, they also feed on insects, small fish, tadpoles, and even worms.

Alabama map turtle is mainly found in shallow and highly vegetated waters, including ponds and rivers. They can also be found in fast-moving creeks featuring rocky bottoms.

11. Ouachita Map Turtle

 Ouachita Map Turtle in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Graptemys ouachitensis
  • Common name: Ouachita Map Turtle, Map Turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 3 to 5 inches (males), 8 to 10 inches (females)
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The Ouachita map turtle lives in the northern part of Alabama and is regarded as one of the less popular map turtle species. The turtle makes an excellent choice of pet for many people since it’s easy to care for.

As for its name, this species is named after the river where it was discovered—Ouachita!

Ouachita turtle is medium to large in terms of size. The average adult female is 3-5 inches long while the male is 8 to 10 inches long. It features thin, yellowing lines that form a web on the turtle’s shell (similar to a contour elevation map).

Moreover, the turtle has brown to olive coloring, with a light spot under both eyes.

The easiest way to identify this Alabama turtle from other map turtle subspecies is by checking the dots on its face. They usually have 3 prominent spots—under the jawline, under the eye, and behind the eye.

Note that this turtle prefers living in stagnant or slow-moving waters, including ponds, lakes, and streams. of Alabama It also prefers waters with plenty of vegetation. This species is omnivorous and eats meat, insects, vegetables, fruits, and aquatic vegetation, to name but a few.

12. Black-Knobbed Map Turtle

 Black-Knobbed Map Turtle in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Graptemys migrinoda
  • Common name: Black-knobbed Sawback
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 3 to 5 inches (males), 8 to 10 inches (females)
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The black-knobbed map turtle is found in the Mobile Bay drainage system of Alabama. This medium-sized aquatic turtle species is small to medium-sized and is easily identifiable by black knobs/spines along the middle of its back.

In terms of coloration, this species usually has a dark olive upper shell and a pattern that resembles a map, making it a subspecies of map turtles.

And the lower side of its shell features yellow and dark colored patterns. Its skin is usually black with yellow-colored stripes.

Like the other map turtle species, the black-knobbed map turtle prefers living in Alabama in slow-moving or stagnant lakes, ponds, or streams with a lot of aquatic vegetation. They’re omnivorous and feed on meat, insects, vegetables, fruits, aquatic vegetation, etc.

13. Barbour’s Map Turtle

 Barbour’s Map Turtle in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Graptemys barbouri
  • Common name: Barbour Map Turtle, Barbour’s Sawback Turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 3 to 5 inches (males), 8 to 10 inches (females)
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The Barbour’s map turtle species is confined to a few river systems in Southern Alabama. The best chance of seeing this turtle is when it is backing on a long near river bank.

Since they’re highly nervous, you’re cautioned against handling or approaching them if you see them in the wild. When started, they quickly burrow into the bottom of a waterbody or mud.

Barbour’s map turtle of Alabama has dark brown or black skin covered with yellow to green markings. And on the upper part of their shell lays the spines—their most distinct feature. Though these spines may vary in size from one turtle to another, they all have got dark tips.

Females are usually larger than females. The females’ heads are way larger compared to those of their male counterparts.

The Barbour’s map turtle in Alabama prefers living in slow-moving or stagnant lakes, ponds, or streams with a lot of aquatic vegetation. They’re omnivorous and feed on meat, insects, vegetables, fruits, aquatic vegetation, etc.

Also read: Turtles in Wisconsin

14. Escambia Map Turtle

 Escambia Map Turtle in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Graptemys ernsti
  • Common name: Map Turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 3 to 5 inches (males), 8 to 10 inches (females)
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The Escambia Map Turtle inhabits large rivers with sandy bottoms in Southern Alabama. It gets its name from the fact that it is only found in rivers that drain into Escambia Bay.

This map turtle subspecies has a brown-colored shell with a black pronounced vertebral keel. The skin is usually black and comes covered with white-yellow or white lines. And big white spots can easily be spotted between and behind their eyes.

Like other map turtle sub-species, these Alabama turtles also live in slow-moving or stagnant lakes, ponds, or streams with a lot of aquatic vegetation. They’re omnivorous in nature; males prefer insects and their larvae while females are fond of clams and mussels.

It is also interesting to note that these turtles are closely related to the Alabama Barbour’s Map Turtle species. The two species even cross-breed where they have their ranges overlapping.

15. Mississippi Diamondback Terrapin

 Mississippi Diamondback Terrapin in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Malaclemys terrapin
  • Common name: Diamondback Terrapin, Mississippi Diamondback Terrapin
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 4 to 6 inches (males), 5 to 8 inches (females)
  • Lifespan: 25 to 35 years
  • Conservation status: Vulnerable

The Mississippi diamondback terrapin is the only freshwater species in Alabama that can adapt to saltwater as well. Their shells have a raised diamond shape, hence the name diamondback. The term “terrapin” simply means little turtle.

A typical diamondback terrapin in Alabama has black or brown carapace and yellow lower shell that may sometimes feature dark-colored patterns. The turtle’s skin is usually grey-white with multiple small black spots.

Female diamondback terrapins are usually bigger than their male counterparts.

These turtles are highly timid and can easily get stressed when in captivity. They’re pretty docile and can be handled. However, they’re known to bite as a way of defending themselves if they feel threatened.

Diamondback terrapins can be found along the coast in tidal flats, salt marshes, barrier beaches, and brackish streams in Alabama. They can also stay in full-strength saltwater for longer periods of time.

The terrapins are largely carnivorous and feed on crustaceans, fish, crabs, shrimps, marine snails, marine worms, mollusks, mussels, clams, and barnacles. However, they also tend to occasionally ingest small amounts of plant matter.

16. River Cooter

 River Cooter in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Pseudemys concinna
  • Common name: River Cooter
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 8 to 12 inches
  • Lifespan: 20 to 40 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

River Cooter turtles are also inhabitants of Alabama. They’re known to be solitary creatures and often like basking alone in the sun. However, they can be sometimes observed sharing habitat with painted turtles and red-eared sliders.

They’re distinguishable by their brown to olive or dark-green outer shell and lighter c-shaped, concentric markings in their scutes. Their skin can be olive or olive-brown in color, with numerous yellow lines.

Most of these turtle adults are around 8 to 12 inches in size, though it’s not rare to come across females with a bigger size—up to 15 inches.

These turtles are pretty fast both on land and in water. They’re found in various freshwater bodies including lakes, ponds, and rivers in Alabama. They’re also found in brackish water.

Their diet is primarily herbivorous and mainly consists of various forms of aquatic vegetation and land plant matter, including fruits and vegetables. They’re however known to occasionally feed on insects and snails.

17. Alabama Redbelly Cooter

 Alabama Redbelly Cooter in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Pseudemys alabamensis
  • Common name: Alabama red-bellied turtle, Red-belly, Slider, Cooter
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 8 to 12 inches
  • Lifespan: 40 to 60 years
  • Conservation status: Not Threatened

Alabama red-belly Cooter lives in the fresh, shallow waters of Southern Alabama. However, it’s not uncommon to come across one in slightly brackish waters.

These turtles are average-sized compared to most species and can reach between 8 and 12 inches in length.

The redbelly scooter usually has a dark brown shell color, with some orange or red coloring on its edges. The lower side of the shell is usually red or orange. The turtle’s skin is usually black or dark brown and is covered by orange or yellow stripes.

Young Alabama red-bellied turtles have more intense and bright coloring, but it fades as they age.

The turtles are, mainly herbivorous and fed on aquatic plants, algae, and land vegetation (they feed on this when basking or nesting). Mind you, this turtle is much easier to find when it’s foraging.

Alabama redbelly turtles are quite nervous and like basking on logs in the sun. They quickly retreat back into the water if they feel threatened or disturbed.

18. Florida Cooter

 Florida Cooter in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Pseudemys floridana
  • Common name: Florida Cooter
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 8 to 12 inches
  • Lifespan: 20 to 40 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The Florida Cooter is one of the largest turtle species inhabiting Alabama. The average adult size is 8 to 12 inches long (with the record length being 16 inches!).

This Cooter features an upper shell that’s colored brown to olive green, sometimes it can be dark green. On top of this, the feature light vertical stripes on its outer shell—this is the distinctive feature separating it from its cousins.

Florida cotter species like living in marshes, rivers, swamps, or lakes of Alabama. They tend to get pretty nervous, so it’s best to observe them and not handle or suddenly approach them, especially when in the wild. Otherwise, they can feel intimidated and stressed and retreat back to the waters.

They’re primarily herbivorous and are often observed feeding on fruits, veggies, and various other forms of aquatic vegetation.

However, they aren’t 100% herbivorous and can be seen feeding on insects and snails if they’re easily caught or if they’re abundant.

19. Pond Sliders

 Pond Sliders in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Trachemys scripta
  • Common name: Pond slider
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 7 to 12 inches
  • Lifespan: 30 to 40 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

Pond sliders is a term used to refer to 3 sub-species of turtles namely yellow belly sliders, red-eared sliders, and Cumberland sliders. For all these 3 subspecies, the males are usually smaller than the females and have thicker tails.

Baby pond sliders are characterized by green shells and a yell-green or dark green skin color. But this color fades as they age. Males, in particular, tend to get darker. Their legs, neck, and head feature yellow marks and stripes alongside this dark appearance.

Red-eared sliders are often confused with painted turtles due to red markings at the jawline plus brightly colored stripes. However, their carapace is more rounded and helmet-like compared to those of painted turtles. Sliders are also bigger than painted turtles in captivity.

Pond sliders in Alabama prefer living in slow-moving waters such as rivers, ponds, lakes, and swamps. They also prefer habitats with muddy bottoms.

As for the diet, pond sliders are omnivorous but they’re more into eating vegetation in their adult age. The young ones are more carnivorous and will eat meat more.

People commonly purchase this turtle species in Alabama as a pet but later on release it into the world when it becomes difficult to take care of or gets too large. But this isn’t a good practice as it can cause pressure on the natural ecosystem.

20. Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle

 Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Apalone spinifera
  • Common name: Spiny Softshell Turtle
  • Family: Trionychidae
  • Size: 5 to 9 inches (males), 12 to 20 inches (females)
  • Lifespan: 30 to 70 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The Eastern Spiny softshell turtle is a medium-to-large freshwater species that lives in Alabama’s lakes, streams, and rivers with muddy or sandy bottoms and little or no vegetation.

Female spiny softshell turtles are usually larger than males. And unlike other turtles, this species has a flexible, leather-like carapace that’s extremely rounded and flattened. The shell color can be olive grey or yellow-brown. Just like other softshell turtles, this species also has a snorkel-like snout.

The young ones feature well-defined round spots that are easily visible on the shell (though these spots become invisible as they transition to adulthood).

Spiny softshell turtles in Alabama tend to eat anything they find in the waters including crayfish, insects, small fish, and so on. They hunt by burying themselves in the mud or sand while keeping their head uncovered to grab food as it swims by.

See also  Types of Box Turtles

These turtles are also able to breathe underwater by taking in oxygen through their throat skin. This is a useful adaptation given that they don’t spend a lot of time out of water.

Other adaptations of these turtles include webbed feed, long claws, and extremely flat shells that enable them to quickly swim away from predators and burry in the muddy bottom of the waters they reside in.

21. Midland Smooth Softshell Turtle

 Midland Smooth Softshell Turtle in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Apalone mutica
  • Common name: Midland Smooth Shell
  • Family: Trionychidae
  • Size: 6 to 13 inches
  • Lifespan: 40 to 60 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The midland smooth softshell turtle boasts its position as the fastest turtle on land in Alabama! Though most people believe these turtles are slow-moving, they must be quick to enable them to outrun their predators given that their soft shells don’t offer much protection.

Shell color of this turtle species ranges from olive to dark brown. The upper part of its shell features dark markings (with female markings appearing in a blotchier pattern than the males’)

The shell of these turtles also appears rounder and flatter, just like other softshell species.

Note that Gulf Coast smooth turtle (Apalone calvata) is the closes relative of this Midland smooth softshell turtle. The main difference existing between these two species is size, with the Gulf coast turtle reaching a maximum of 12 inches long.

Also, the Gulf coast species has no lines on its face while the midland smooth softshell turtle does.

These turtles like inhabiting waterbodies like rivers and streams in Alabama that provide an abundance of mud or sand at the bottom. They can also be found in stagnant waterbodies.

Midland smooth softshell turtles are omnivorous and their diet revolves around aquatic vegetation and insects. However, they have been observed to like meat more than plant matter and will mainly eat snails, insects, and fish.

22. Eastern Mud Turtle

 Eastern Mud Turtle in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Kinosternon subrubrum
  • Common name: Eastern Mud Turtle, Mud Turtle
  • Family: Kinosternidae
  • Size: 3 to 5 inches
  • Lifespan: 50 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The Eastern Mud turtle in Alabama is found in shallow waters including ditches, marshes, wet meadows, and swamps.

This smaller aquatic turtle species is characterized by a smooth and unmarked shell. Yes, it has an incredible plain look, with its upper shell lacking any patterns. The carapace color ranges from dark yellow to black.

The lower side of the shell is also pretty plain, though it usually appears lighter on the upper part. The key distinction of this mud turtle is the stripes on its head which can be white or yellow in color.

One particular feature that sets this turtle apart from others and makes it easily identifiable is the hinges on its lower shell which form a “K” shape when viewed from the sides.

Just as its name suggests, this turtle lives in water bodies with a soft muddy, or sandy bottom. Thus, they can be found in marshes, swamps, and rivers in Alabama.

Since the Alabama eastern mud turtle is omnivorous, it eats meat, fish, snails, insects, and aquatic vegetation as well as plant matter on land.

Unlike other turtles, eastern mud turtles do not hibernate in the cold winter months. Instead, it does the opposite—it becomes dormant in the hot months of summer (this is known as aestivation).

23. Eastern Musk Turtle

 Eastern Musk Turtle in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Sternotherus odoratus
  • Common name: Eastern Musk Turtle, Common Musk Turtle, Musk Turtle, Stinkpot
  • Family: Kinosternidae
  • Size: 2 to 4.5 inches
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The Eastern Musk Turtle is another aquatic turtle found in Alabama’s slow-moving and sluggish streams as well as still water bodies. The turtle usually prefers areas with dark crevices, where it can easily hide. It also prefers lots of plant matter to burrow in and hide.

An average adult eastern musk turtle is quite small (2 to 4.5 inches long). It has a pretty plain appearance with highly consistent colors. Both the shell and skin usually share the same color and can range from dark brown to black.

The turtle shell has one unique feature—a ridge traversing its entire shell length. Besides, it has another distinctive feature: two light-colored stripes on its head.

Common musk turtles of Alabama are herbivorous and will eat small aquatic or semi-aquatic animals, carrion, and aquatic vegetation. They will also feed on any other vegetation on land.

When it feels threatened, this turtle species emits a foul odor (a musky odor, hence its name). This scent can be detected in water or on land. It can also easily waft through the air to its predators.

Also, these Alabama turtles are good at climbing trees! This great capability enables them to go high up tree branches to find a safe resting place and avoid predators.

24. Flattened Musk Turtle

 Flattened Musk Turtle in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Sternotherus depressus
  • Common name: Musk Turtle
  • Family: Kinosternidae
  • Size: 3 to 4 inches
  • Lifespan: 50 to 60 years
  • Conservation status: Critically Endangered

The flattened musk turtle is ONLY found in Alabama. To be more precise, it lives in the Black Warrior river system, located in west-central Alabama.

This turtle species is quite small (3 to 4 inches long) and differs from other turtles with its carapace shape that’s flat on top, with rounded edges. The scutes on its carapace slightly overlap to give the shell a ridged look.

Flattened musk turtles in Alabama usually have a dark brown carapace while the lower side of the shell is lighter brown. The skin can be black or dark brown, with numerous olive spots.

The musk turtle species love to eat aquatic insects and mollusks and live in freshwater lakes and rivers.

One interesting fact about these turtles is that they’re believed to have evolved over 15 million years ago before the dinosaurs became extinct.

Alabama flattened musk turtle species are protected given that 90% of their habitat has been destroyed as a result of erosion caused by strip mining in their habitat.

25. Razor-Backed Musk Turtle

 Razor-Backed Musk Turtle in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Sternotherus carinatus
  • Common name: Musk turtle, stinkpot
  • Family: Kinosternidae
  • Size: 5 to 6 inches
  • Lifespan: 40 to 50 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The Alabama razor-backed must turtle is identified by the keels on its back. In other words, its carapace is shaped like a tent that comes to a point along its spine and then slopes down on its sides.

Just like the other must turtles, this species is also pretty small and the average adult hits 5-6 inches in length. Their shell color ranges from light grey to olive, brown, and black. Skin color can be olive or dark brown, though the exact color differs from individual to individual.

These Alabama turtles usually have long necks and large heads which usually have bright colors and turn gray with dark spots as they age.

This razor-back musk turtle prefers living in water almost entirely and will only leave the waters to bask or when it’s time to lay eggs. The species live in deep waters of oxbow lakes and river swamps. They also prefer living in slow-current large streams.

Diet-wise, the Alabama razor-back musk turtle is mainly carnivorous and is fond of mollusks, snails, and fish.

26. Loggerhead Musk Turtle

 Loggerhead Musk Turtle in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Sternotherus minor
  • Common name: Stripe head or loggerhead turtle
  • Family: Kinosternidae
  • Size: 3 to 4 inches
  • Lifespan: 20 to 40 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The loggerhead musk turtle is the most recognizable of all the musk turtles in Alabama. It has a large head and a beak-like mouth that easily set it apart from many other species of turtles.

These turtles are among the smallest of the species in the US, with the adult hitting a maximum length of 3 to 4 inches.

Also, the Alabama loggerhead turtle features quite pronounced scutes in the middle of its shell which become less and less visible as it ages. Their carapace is usually light brown with a small streak of black. And their lower shell side is light brown or yellow. The skin color is black, with light brown lines.

As for the habitat, these Alabama turtles prefer streams and springs with muddy bottoms, where they can comfortably and safely rest or lay eggs.

Loggerhead musk turtles are mainly carnivorous and their diet consists of fish, snails, and mollusks. When approached by predators, these turtles will also produce a foul smell.

27. Chicken Turtle

 Chicken Turtle in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Deiochelus reticularia
  • Common name: Chicken Turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 4 to 6 inches
  • Lifespan: 15 to 30 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The chicken turtle is, without a doubt, the most social turtle species you’ll find in Alabama! They’re known to bask or swim in groups and rarely live or travel alone.

The easiest way to observe them is when they’re basking, since most of their activities, including reproduction and feeding, happen underwater.

Chicken turtle shells are egg-shaped compared to other turtles and are black or dark brown in color. They also feature subtle yellow patterns. The lower side of the shell is usually yellow and the skin is dark and covered with yellow stripes.

Chicken turtles of Alabama prefer living in still water areas such as ponds, marshes, and ditches in Alabama. However, it is also easy to spot them on land when they’re foraging for food or basking in the sun.

For the diet part, chicken turtles are omnivorous and like eating meat, fish, snails, insects, aquatic vegetation, and land plant matter such as fruits and veggies.

An interesting fact: Chicken turtles are so named because of their meat taste, which was a popular delicacy back in the 1970s!

28. Three-Toed Box Turtle

 Three-Toed Box Turtle in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Terrapene triunguis
  • Common name: N/A
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 4.5 to 5 inches
  • Lifespan: 50 and 100 years
  • Conservation status: Vulnerable

The three-toed box turtles inhabit the thickets, prairies, and woodlands of Southwest Alabama. They’re easily identifiable by the 3 toes on their hind limbs, unlike the usual 4 toes on other box turtle species.

They have a uniform olive to brown shell color, sometimes with light spots or streaks. Bright yellow or orange spots are also occasionally spotted on the turtle species’ head and leg.

A mature three-toed box turtle has an average size of 4.5 to 5 inches.

They are unlike other box turtles in that they’re the only species that will remain healthy if you have them in indoor enclosures.

Being omnivorous in nature, these Alabama turtles are known to eat strawberries, snails, insects, earthworms, slugs, mushrooms, and green-leafed vegetation. They have also been spotted eating quail eggs.

29. Gopher Tortoise

 Gopher Tortoise in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Gopherus polyphemus
  • Common name: Gopher
  • Family: Testudinidae
  • Size: 6 to 9.5 inches
  • Lifespan: 40 to 60 years
  • Conservation status: Vulnerable

Gopher is a fairly large tortoise and the ONLY tortoise inhabitant of Alabama land. An adult has a size of 6 to 9.5 inches. They have brown or tan shell color and grayish-brown skin with yellow or orange botches.

The terrestrial reptile has its forefeet well adapted for burrowing. The front legs are scaly and shovel-like to allow for easy digging.

Mind you, this turtle gets its name from its ability to dig deep burrows—just like a gopher the rodent! Even more interesting is that these burrows provide shelter to 360 other animals in Alabama, including frogs, owls, engendered indigo snakes, etc.—making the tortoise a keystone species.

They mainly feed on vegetation such as mushrooms, grass, flowers, apples, and berries. Since they’re omnivorous in nature, they also feed on dead crabs or insects they come across.

Gopher tortoises tend to be more active during warmer weather. Their burrows can maintain more constant temperatures, making them safe havens for them.

NOTE that it is illegal to domesticate a gopher tortoise as a pet in Alabama. They also face the threat of a declining population mainly caused by human interference.

Alabama authorities limit land development in areas with these tortoises or their burrows. It is also illegal to relocate these species without permission from Fish and Wildlife Services.

30. Eastern Box Turtle

 Eastern Box Turtle in Alabama
  • Scientific name: Terrapene carolina
  • Common name: Eastern Box Turtle, Land turtle, Box Turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 4.5 and 7 inches
  • Lifespan: 50 to 100 years
  • Conservation status: Vulnerable

The eastern box turtles of Alabama are found in dense thickets and woodland areas. They prefer these areas due to abundant access to sunlight and food sources nearby.

An adult turtle of this species is about 4.5 to 7 inches and weighs just 2lbs. It has a high, domed shell shape with a ridge running from head to toe. The shell of this turtle has varying colors of olive, brown, and tan.

The variation in markings on the shells of these turtles is so variable that you can’t easily recognize one by looking at the shell alone.

These eastern box turtles of Alabama are omnivorous and feed on a variety of foods including insects, meat, fruits, vegetables, and various types of vegetation.

Note that eastern box turtles are taken from the Alabama wild for pet trade, leading to a decline in their population. For this reason, many states have illegalized capturing and selling of this species.

And those in captivity end up dying due to poor conditions or being abandoned or released back into the wild because they’re too demanding to maintain.

Related: Different Types Of Turtles Found in the United States

The Bottom Line

That’s it for the 30 species of turtles of Alabama. As you have in this list, the state of Alabama is home to the most freshwater turtles. It is also home to sea and box turtles.

The multiple water bodies in Alabama offer suitable living conditions for these numerous turtle species. Not forgetting that the area receives abundant rainfall which further makes it the perfect habitat for various turtle species.

Having read through this guide, we’re confident that you’re now fully informed about all turtle species in Alabama and the unique traits of each of them.

Turtles of Alabama