Turtles In Georgia

Turtles In Georgia – 29 Species That are Found Here

Georgia has up to 29 species of turtles.  Freshwater turtles make up the largest group of these turtles and range from snapping turtles to painted turtles, map turtles, river Cooter, pond turtles, mud turtles, and musk turtles.

Sea turtles are also present in Georgia and include loggerhead, hawksbill, green sea, and Kemp ridley sea turtles.

Not to forget, this state is also home to box turtles and the gopher tortoise.

This clearly shows that Georgia state is rich in turtle diversity and an ultimate destination for turtle lovers. Most of these turtles in this state also make good pets, but some cannot be petted.

In this article, we’ll look at each of these species of turtles in Georgia. For each species, we’ll look at basics such as physical appearance, average adult size, what they eat, where they live, lifespan, and conservation status.

29 Types Of Turtles In Georgia

Contents

1. Common Snapping Turtle

 Common Snapping Turtle in Georgia
  • 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 Georgia. 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 Georgia 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 Georgia 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.

2. Alligator Snapping Turtle

 Alligator Snapping Turtle in Georgia
  • 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 Georgia. 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 Georgia.

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.

3. Southern Painted Turtle

 Southern Painted Turtle in Georgia
  • 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 Georgia. It prefers living in shallow water habits such as on the 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 Georgia.

4. Northern Map Turtle

 Northern Map Turtle in Georgia
  • Scientific name: Graptemys Geographica
  • Common name: Common map Turtle, Northern Map Turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 3.5 to 6.5 inches (males), 7 to 10.5 inches (males)
  • Lifespan: 20+ years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The Northern map turtle also goes by the name common map turtle and was labeled as the second most common Graptemys in 2009. The species is commonly found in ponds, lakes, streams rivers, and drainage systems.

Northern map turtles found in Georgia will simply inhabit any waterbody that provides abundant aquatic vegetation, with deep waters with a stony or rocky bottom.

The turtle gets its “map” name due to the map-like markings covering its olive or grayish-brown upper shell.

On top of this, the shells have orange or yellow lines with dark borders. The carapace is broad and has a low keel. The plastron of an adult common map turtle is yellowish in color.

Most of these turtle species also feature an oval spot behind the eyes.

Northern map turtles in Georgia can be observed basking on the fallen trees around the waters of Georgia while feeding on snails, crayfish, clams, crustaceans, and other aquatic insects.

Since females are larger than males, they tend to feast on bigger prey than males.

5. Ouachita Map Turtle

 Ouachita Map Turtle in Georgia
  • 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 Georgia 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 Georgia 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.

This species is omnivorous and eats meat, insects, vegetables, fruits, and aquatic vegetation, to name but a few.

Note that this turtle prefers living in stagnant or slow-moving waters, including ponds, lakes, and streams in Georgia. It also prefers waters with plenty of vegetation.

6. Alabama Map Turtle

 Alabama Map Turtle in Georgia
  • Scientific name: Graptemys pulchra
  • Common name: Georgia 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 the Mobile Bay Drainage System which covers up to 65% of Alabama state, hence the name Alabama map turtle.

But it also covers the states of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Georgia.

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

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

7. Barbour’s Map Turtle

 Barbour’s Map Turtle in Georgia
  • 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 Georgia. 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.

The Barbour’s map turtle in Georgia 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 Georgia 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.

8. Diamond-Backed Terrapin

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

The Diamondback terrapin is the only freshwater species in Georgia that can adapt to saltwater habitats 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 Georgia has a 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 in Georgia can be found along the coast in tidal flats, salt marshes, barrier beaches, and brackish streams in Georgia. They can also stay in full-strength saltwater for longer periods.

These 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.

9. River Cooter

 River Cooter in Georgia
  • 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 Georgia. 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 Georgia. 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.

10. Florida Red-Bellied Cooter

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

Florida red-bellied Cooter lives in the Okefenokee Swamp region which spans from Southern Georgia all the way to Florida. These turtles are average-sized compared to most species and can reach between 8 and 12 inches in length.

The redbelly Cooter in Georgia 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.

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

These Georgia aquatic 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.

Florida 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.

11. Pond Slider

 Pond Slider in Georgia
  • 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 Georgia 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 Georgia 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.

12. Yellow-Bellied Slider

 Yellow-Bellied Slider in Georgia
  • Scientific name: Trachemys scripta scripta
  • Common name: Yellow-bellied slider
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 8 to 13 inches (females), 5 to 9 inches (males)
  • Lifespan: 30 to 40 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The yellow-bellied slider turtle is a sub-species of pond sliders native to the Southern region of the United States, including Georgia and Southwest Virginia.

It is a semi-aquatic turtle that lives in water as well as land. And it can be found in a variety of habitats including floodplain swamps slow-moving rivers, seasonal wetlands, marshes, and even permanent ponds.

As the name suggests, this turtle features a yellowish plastron. Plus, it bears yellowish markings on its skin, not to forget prominent yellow stripes behind its eyes. The upper shell color ranges from dark brown to olive.

These Georgia sliders are omnivorous and like eating fish, snails, insects, and aquatic vegetation. they also eat land vegetation, including fruits and vegetables.

It is also worth noting that Georgia Yellow-bellied sliders are a popular choice of pet turtles for most folks. They don’t require a lot of special care, which makes them a favorite for many folks.

13. Spiny Softshell Turtle

 Spiny Softshell Turtle in Georgia
  • 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 Spiny softshell turtle is a medium-to-large freshwater species that lives in Georgia’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 Georgia 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.

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.

14. Florida Softshell Turtle

 Florida Softshell Turtle in Georgia
  • Scientific name: Apalone ferox
  • Common name: Florida Softshell Turtle, Softshell Turtle
  • Family: Trionychidae
  • Size: 11 to 24 inches (females), 6 to 12 inches (males)
  • Lifespan: 50+ years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

Florida softshell turtle is the largest softshell species residing in Northern America! It is also the ONLY softshell native to regions of Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida.

This softshell species is marked by a dark brown to olive green upper shell with leathery texture and pancake appearance. The plastron is usually white or gray.

Florida softshells are mainly carnivorous and will feed on insects, worms, mollusks, and fish strips.

The turtle is almost fully aquatic and prefers residing in shallow and muddy water bodies like slow-moving streams and ponds. Its thin snout enables it to breathe while still being submerged in the water as it hides from predators or hunts for food.

Note that this Florida softshell turtle in Georgia is fast both on land and in the waters!

They don’t like being handled and will often try resisting by biting or scratching with their teeth or sharp claws. They can also be kept as a pet turtles, and are ideal for more advanced pet owners.

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15. Eastern Mud Turtle

 Eastern Mud Turtle in Georgia
  • 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 Georgia 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 Georgia.

Since the Georgia 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).

16. Striped Mud Turtle

 Striped Mud Turtle in Georgia
  • Scientific name: Kinosternon baurii
  • Common name: Striped Mud Turtle, Three-Striped Mud turtle
  • Family: Kinosternidae
  • Size: 4 to 5 inches
  • Lifespan: 15 to 20 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The striped mud turtle is widespread throughout Georgia state in the shallow and smaller waterbodies. You’ll most likely see them in the cypress swamps, ditches, and drainage canals in Georgia.

Striped mud turtles usually have dark-brown oval-shaped shells, with 3 yellowish vertical stripes (hence their name).

The turtle species are quite easy to spot in Georgia than other mud turtles as they spend more time on land than in water. They are unlike other mud turtles in that they sun themselves, forage for insects, and like resting out of the waters.

Georgia striped mud turtle is omnivorous and eats snails, insects, fish, algae, carrion, and even plants. The turtle has also been observed eating dried krill.

Note that this turtle species of Georgia is considered an imperiled species. Nonetheless, this small aquatic species is no longer considered under the status of Federal Endangered Status.

17. Eastern Musk Turtle

 Eastern Musk Turtle in Georgia
  • 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 Georgia’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 Georgia 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 Georgia 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.

18. Loggerhead Musk Turtle

 Loggerhead Musk Turtle in Georgia
  • 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 Georgia. 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 Georgia 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 Georgia 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.

19. Bog Turtle

 Bog Turtle in Georgia
  • Scientific name: Glyptemys muhlenbergii
  • Common name: Bog Turtle, Muhlenberg’s turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 3.5 to 5 inches
  • Lifespan: up to 40 years
  • Conservation status: Critically Endangered

The Bog turtle is the smallest aquatic turtle you’ll find in Georgia and North America in general.

The species is critically endangered and is one of the rarest turtles in the state; it is only seen in the western counties of Georgia.

Mind you; selling or owning a bog turtle in Georgia is illegal!

An adult bog turtle’s carapace coloration ranges from black to olive or dark brown and features a central keel ridge. Some of the scutes making up their upper shell may also bear red or yellow-star markings. And their heads have distinctive orange or yellow patches.

The bog turtle is known to inhabit wetland areas such as marshes or bogs populated with grass cover.

These turtle species are diurnal omnivores and like eating insects, mollusks, and occasional vegetation. They’re most active during warm parts of the day.

20. Spotted Turtle

 Spotted Turtle in Georgia
  • Scientific name: Clemmys guttata
  • Common name: Spotted Turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 4 to 5 inches
  • Lifespan: 25 to 50 years
  • Conservation status: Endangered

Spotted turtles in Georgia reside in shallow marshes, swamps, and bogs. They’re semi-aquatic and are comfortable on the land just as they are in the waters.

An adult spotted turtle has a smooth upper shell that ranges from olive to dark brown in color, with some light yellow spots. The neck and head feature irregular orange or yellow spots and streaks. Also, their tails are fairly long.

The turtles are omnivorous and their diet involves crustaceans, mollusks, insects, and plant matter (occasionally). Note that these turtles are aggressive hunters and will actively seek their prey.

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Unfortunately, the population of spotted turtles in Georgia is on the decline due to human interference and habitat loss. Their unique shell patterns make them a favorite species of a pet turtle for many people.

For this reason, they’re listed as endangered and protected by many governing bodies. In Georgia state, you can only own ONE spotted turtle and not more than that!

Above all, the spotted turtles of Georgia are incredibly smart. Studies carried on them using a maze indicate they have the same brain capacity as the mouse!

21. Chicken Turtle

 Chicken Turtle in Georgia
  • 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 Georgia! 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 Georgia prefer living in still water areas such as ponds, marshes, and ditches in Georgia. 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!

22. Green Sea Turtle

 Green Sea Turtle in Georgia
  • 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 Georgia. 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 Georgia 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 Georgia 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.

23. Loggerhead Sea Turtle

 Loggerhead Sea Turtle in Georgia
  • 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 Georgia.

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 Georgia 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 Georgia 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.

24. Leatherback Sea Turtle

 Leatherback Sea Turtle in Georgia
  • 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 Georgia 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 Georgia 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 Georgia 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!

25. Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle

 Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle in Georgia
  • 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 Georgia. 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 Georgia 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.

26. Hawksbill Sea Turtle

 Hawksbill Sea Turtle in Georgia
  • 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 Georgia coastal waters, though they’re rare.

The adult has an average size of 3 feet and weighs around 180 pounds. The shell of this turtle features an 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.

Hawksbill 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 Georgia.

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.

27. Eastern Box Turtle

 Eastern Box Turtle in Georgia
  • 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 Georgia 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 Georgia 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 Georgia wild for the 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.

28. Florida Box Turtle

 Florida Box Turtle in Georgia
  • Scientific name: Terrapene bauri
  • Common name: N/A
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 4.5 to 6.5 inches
  • Lifespan: 25 to 30 years
  • Conservation status: Vulnerable

The Florida box turtle is native to the state of Florida and the extreme southeastern part of Georgia. Its distribution is widespread throughout Florida’s mainland, though it has also been observed in the Florida Keys.

As one of the 4 common box turtle subspecies, this box turtle’s natural habitat involves the swamps, marshes, and forests in the Florida Keys region. The turtle likes lying in water but it doesn’t swim as often.

The box turtle of Georgia has a dark (almost black shell) with impressive orange markings along with yellow stripes on its head.

Being omnivorous in nature, this Florida turtle will eat snails, insects, earthworms, slugs, mushrooms, strawberries, and green-leafed vegetation. They have also been spotted eating quail eggs.

This Florida box turtle in Georgia is fairly small and tolerant to handling, making it a good pet choice. However, the law forbids owning more than two of these turtle species without a permit.

29. Gopher Tortoise

 Gopher Tortoise in Georgia
  • 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 Georgia 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 Georgia, 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 Georgia. They also face the threat of a declining population mainly caused by human interference.

Georgia 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.

Related: Turtles in Oregon

Conclusion

These are the top 29 species of turtle you can find in Georgia. From freshwater turtles to semi-aquatic, sea turtles, and box turtles, Georgia is a state rich in turtle diversity and a must-visit destination if you love turtles.

Freshwater turtles are the largest group of turtles you’ll find in this state and include snapping turtles, painted turtles, map turtles, river Cooter, pond turtles, mud, and musk turtles.

Hopefully, this guide has informed you on the basics of each turtle species of Georgia and the unique attributes each of them carries.

Turtles In Georgia