Turtles in Louisiana

Turtles in Louisiana – 25 Species That are Found Here

Louisiana is home to 25 turtles. These include the sea turtles such as the hawksbill, green sea turtle, leatherback sea turtle, and the Kemp ridley sea turtles.

Other turtle species inhabiting this state include the snapping turtles, mud and musk turtles, painted turtles, pond soldiers, Cooters, diamondback terrapins, chicken turtles, smooth softshell turtles, spiny softshell turtles, and box turtles.

The gopher tortoise is also a native species of Louisiana. However, it is vulnerable and its population is on the decline.

Below, we have compiled the complete list of the 25 turtles in Louisiana and the basics you need to know about each of them.

For each species, we’ll discuss basics like the physical appearance, size, lifespan, diet, habitat, conservation status, and more.

25 Types Of Turtles in Louisiana

Contents

1. Alligator Snapping Turtle

 Alligator Snapping Turtle in Louisiana
  • 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 Louisiana. 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 Louisiana.

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.

2. Common Snapping Turtle

 Common Snapping Turtle in Louisiana
  • 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 Louisiana. 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 Louisiana 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 Louisiana 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.

3. Smooth Softshell Turtle

 Smooth Softshell Turtle in Louisiana
  • 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 smooth softshell turtle boasts its position as the fastest turtle on land in Louisiana! 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.

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

Smooth softshell turtles of Louisiana 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.

4. Spiny Softshell Turtle

 Spiny Softshell Turtle in Louisiana
  • 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 Louisiana’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 Louisiana 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.

5. Mississippi Map Turtle

 Mississippi Map Turtle in Louisiana
  • Scientific name: Graptemys pseudogeographica kohni
  • Common name: Mississippi Map Turtle, False Map Turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 3 to 10 inches
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The Mississippi map turtle is another turtle species found in Louisiana. This turtle’s preferred habitat in Louisiana includes rivers, streams, and oxbow lakes of the Missouri and Mississippi river systems.

It is an excellent swimmer and prefers moderate currents and deep waters.

Its upper shell coloring ranges from olive to dark brown, with light-colored lines on its limbs. It also features a line behind its eye that forms a backward “L” shape. The map pattern on its carapace tends to fade as the turtle ages.

Since this map turtle of Louisiana is omnivorous, it feeds on aquatic insects and animals as well as vegetation. It is fond of river snails and crustaceans. Don’t forget it has strong jaws and can give a nasty bite!

Like most of the other aquatic turtles of Louisiana, this map turtle spends most of its waking hours sunning.

The map turtle is quite shy and quietly and swiftly slides into the water at the slightest signs of disturbance. It likes spending most of its time in water and is most active in climate conditions of over 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

6. Ouachita Map Turtle

 Ouachita Map Turtle in Louisiana
  • 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 Louisiana 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 Louisiana 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 Louisiana 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.

7. Pearl River Map Turtle

 Pearl River Map Turtle in Louisiana
  • Scientific name: Graptemys Pearlensis
  • Common name: Pearl River Map Turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 3 to 5 inches (males), 8 to 10 inches (females)
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
  • Conservation status: Endangered

The Pearl River Map Turtle is native to the Pearl River system in Louisiana and Mississippi. This rare sub-species of map turtle is native to the Southern United States.

Its upper shell is olive green and features fluted edges with yellow markings. The female usually has a larger head and a flattened, wide beak for crushing food.

Note that it is usually a challenge to tell apart this turtle in Louisiana from some of its close map turtle cousins.

Like the other map turtles, the females are usually larger than the males.

Pearl River Map Turtles in Louisiana are omnivorous and mainly feed on crustacean invertebrates, small fish, and aquatic plants.

Unfortunately, this turtle species native to the Southern United States is under threat in Louisiana from water pollution and has been labeled as endangered species due to its declining population.

8. Ringed Map Turtle

 Ringed Map Turtle in Louisiana
  • Scientific name: Graptemys oculifera
  • Common name: Ringed Map Turtle, Ringed Sawback
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 3 to 5 inches (males), 8 to 10 inches (females)
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
  • Conservation status: Vulnerable

This map turtle also shares a range with the Pearl River Map Turtles and is found in the Pearl River system in Louisiana and Mississippi states.

In the state of Louisiana, this turtle is mainly concentrated in several eastern counties near Pearl River.

You can easily identify a ring map turtle by looking at its shell. it features prominent light circles on a dark shell background—this is where it gets the name “Ringed” turtle.

The shell color ranges from green to yellowish, with some sharp peaks situated down the center. And yes, their shells also feature jagged, saw-tooth edges.

This ringed map turtle in Louisiana is omnivorous and loves eating crustaceans, mollusks, and aquatic vegetation. it prefers living in moving waters such as rivers.

9. Sabine Map Turtle

 Sabine Map Turtle in Louisiana
  • Scientific name: Graptemys sabinensis
  • Common name: Sabine Map Turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 3 to 5 inches (males), 8 to 10 inches (females)
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern
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The Sabine Map Turtle is another inhabitant of Louisiana and an extremely close relative of the Ouachita map turtle. They’re quite identical in terms of behavior and looks.

In fact, it has always been considered a sub-species of Ouachita turtle until recently.

The only difference is that this Sabine map turtle has a pretty smaller range and is only found in a few river systems in Louisiana and Texas.

Sabine map turtle in Louisiana has an olive or brown upper shell, with rounded lumps forming a ridge at the center of its back. Black horizontal lines can be seen in its eyes running across white irises.

The face sports yellowish markings while the lower side of its lower shell side has a yellow to cream coloration.

Just like the other map turtles, this Sabine map turtle is omnivorous and feeds on crustaceans, mollusks, small fish, and aquatic plants.

10. Mississippi Mud Turtle

 Mississippi Mud Turtle in Louisiana
  • 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 Mississippi Mud turtle in Louisiana 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 Louisiana.

Since the Louisiana 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).

11. Common Musk Turtle

 Common Musk Turtle in Louisiana
  • 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 Common Musk Turtle is another aquatic turtle found in Louisiana’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 Louisiana 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 Louisiana 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.

12. Razor-backed Musk Turtle

 Razor-backed Musk Turtle in Louisiana
  • 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 Louisiana 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 Louisiana 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 Louisiana razor-back musk turtle is mainly carnivorous and is fond of mollusks, snails, and fish.

Also read: Turtles in Minnesota

13. Southern Painted Turtle

 Southern Painted Turtle in Louisiana
  • 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 Louisiana. 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 Louisiana.

14. Red-eared Slider

 Red-eared Slider in Louisiana
  • Scientific name: Trachemys scripta
  • Common name: Red-eared Slider, Red-eared Terrapin
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 7 to 11 inches
  • Lifespan: 30 to 40 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The red-eared slider is a subspecies of pond sliders and a native species of Louisiana. It is a semi-aquatic turtle and prefers living in marshes, ponds, lakes, and creeks.

A red-eared slider gets its name from the small red stripe surrounding its ears (or behind the eye), and its ability to quickly slide off logs and rocks into the water.

Generally, the skin and shell coloration of this slider can be brown or black, with yellow stripes covering the skin.

The red-eared sliders of Louisiana are pretty large and the adults reach 7-12 in length (though females are generally larger than males).

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

15. Chicken Turtle

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

16. Eastern River Cooter

 Eastern River Cooter in Louisiana
  • 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 Louisiana. 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 Louisiana. 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 also occasionally eat insects and snails.

17. Mississippi Diamondback Terrapin

 Mississippi Diamondback Terrapin in Louisiana
  • 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 Louisiana 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 Louisiana 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 Louisiana. They can also stay in full-strength saltwater for longer periods of time.

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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.

18. Green Sea Turtle

 Green Sea Turtle in Louisiana
  • 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 Louisiana. 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 Louisiana 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 Louisiana 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.

19. Hawksbill Sea Turtle

 Hawksbill Sea Turtle in Louisiana
  • 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 on Louisiana’s coast and open oceans.

The adult hawkbill 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 Louisiana.

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.

20. Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle

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

21. Leatherback Turtle

 Leatherback Turtle in Louisiana
  • 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 Louisiana 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 Louisiana 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 Louisiana 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!

22. Loggerhead Sea Turtle

 Loggerhead Sea Turtle in Louisiana
  • 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 Louisiana.

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 Louisiana 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 Louisiana 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.

23. Ornate Box Turtle

 Ornate Box Turtle in Louisiana
  • Common name: Ornate Box Turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 5 to 7 inches
  • Lifespan: 40 to 60 years
  • Conservation status: Near Threatened

Ornate box turtles are present in Louisiana and are recognized by the beautiful pattern on their carapace. This eye-pleasing pattern is sometimes referred to as a starburst pattern.

Their skin is grey and may feature yellow or white spots. Male heads occasionally feature a green color.

Though there exists little distinction between the males and females of these Louisiana box turtles, the males are generally smaller than the females.

During hot weather, this turtle requires water to help regulate its body temperature.

The Louisiana species of turtle are known to hibernate in burrows during cold weather. They’re also capable of surviving in frozen soils for several days.

Being omnivorous in nature and opportunistic feeders, these turtles will gladly eat anything available to them in their habitat or what’s abundant in a given season.

Fruits and vegetables, as well as various insects like grasshoppers, have been observed to be eaten by them.

24. Three-toed Box Turtle

Three-toed Box Turtle in Louisiana
  • 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 Louisiana. 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 Louisiana turtles are known to eat snails, insects, earthworms, slugs, mushrooms, strawberries, and green-leafed vegetation. They have also been spotted eating quail eggs.

25. Gopher Tortoise

 Gopher Tortoise in Louisiana
  • 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 Louisiana 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 Louisiana, 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.

Related: Turtles in Iowa

Conclusion

There’s no denying that Louisiana state is one of the hotspots in the US for turtle diversity. It is home to sea turtles, aquatic turtles, semi-aquatic turtles, terrestrial turtles, and even the Gopher tortoise.

In summary, the turtles found in Louisiana include the snapping turtles, mud and musk turtles, painted turtles, pond soldiers, Cooters, diamondback terrapins, chicken turtles, smooth softshell turtles, spiny softshell turtles, and box turtles.

Hopefully, this guide has informed you about the different turtle species in Louisiana state and their unique traits, looks, and behavior that help you easily tell them apart.

Turtles in Louisiana