Turtles in Maine

Turtles in Maine – 9 Species That are Found Here

Maine is home to 9 species of turtles, with the most commonly sighted species being the painted turtles, wood turtles, and snapping turtles.

Snapping turtles, in particular, are widespread throughout the state (except for the Northern part) and are easily observed in not only ponds and lakes, but also in small pools of water like ditches.

Other turtles that live within Maine borders include the common musk turtle, spotted turtle, Blanding’s turtle, and eastern box turtle.

As if that’s not enough, Maine also hosts two sea turtle species—namely the leatherback and Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles.

Find below the complete list of turtles in Maine and the basics defining each of them such as physical appearance, average adult size, lifespan, habitat, diet, and conservation status.

9 Types Of Turtles In Maine

Contents

1. Common Snapping Turtle

 Common Snapping Turtle in Maine
  • 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 Maine. 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 Maine 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 Maine 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. Common Musk Turtle

 Common Musk Turtle in Maine
  • Scientific name: Sternotherus odoratus
  • Common name: Common Musk Turtle, Eastern 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 Maine’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 Maine 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 Maine 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.

3. Blanding’s Turtle

 Blanding’s Turtle in Maine
  • Scientific name: Emydoidea blandingii
  • Common name: Blanding’s Turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 5 to 8 inches
  • Lifespan: up to 80 years (or more!)
  • Conservation status: Endangered

Blanding’s Turtle is also known as the “turtle that smiles” and is named in honor of William Blanding, the American naturalist.

The species is semi-aquatic and is categorized under endured species in Maine. It is mainly concentrated in the northern half of this state, but its population is quite scattered—making it hard to find.

A typical Blanding turtle has a dark oval shell covered with faint yellow speckles. The lower side of its shell is usually yellow with black patches.

Blanding’s turtle in Maine prefers living in marshy habitats. And the fact that it’s losing these favorite habitats is one of the reasons causing its population to decline fast.

Because this turtle species is omnivorous, it feeds on leatherworks, crayfish, and aquatic invertebrates. It also occasionally feeds on plants and doesn’t rely on water to help it sallow its food as it’s the case with most turtle species.

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4. Spotted Turtle

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

A 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. 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.

Unfortunately, the population of spotted turtles in Maine 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 Maine.

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

5. Wood Turtle

 Wood Turtle in Maine
  • Scientific name: Glyptemys insculpta
  • Common name: Wood turtle, Sculptured Tortoise, Redleg, Red-legged Tortoise
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 5.5 to 8 inches
  • Lifespan: 40 to 60 years
  • Conservation status: Endangered

Wood turtle species also inhabit the various woodland habitats across Maine state. However, they also tend to stay near the water and will frequently venture into it.

During winter, they tend to hibernate at the bottom of deep rivers and pools in Maine.

The turtles get their name from their sculpted-like looks. Their upper shells are dark brown and have sport patterns resembling wood grain and growth rings.

Their scutes may sometimes appear like they’re pyramiding, further enhancing their sculpted shape.

Wood turtles of Maine are diurnal omnivores and their diet mainly consists of berries, plants, insects, and mollusks.

They forage for their food widely and have even been observed stomping their feet on the ground as a way of tricking the earthworms into surfacing.

Also read: Turtles in Washington

6. Eastern Painted Turtle

 Eastern Painted Turtle in Maine
  • 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 Maine, 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 Maine 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.

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

One interesting fact about these Maine 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 Maine. 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.

7. Eastern Box Turtle

 Eastern Box Turtle in Maine
  • 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 Maine 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.

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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 Maine 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 Maine 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.

8. Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle

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

9. Leatherback Sea Turtle

 Leatherback Sea Turtle in Maine
  • 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 Maine 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 Maine 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 Maine 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!

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Conclusion

That’s all for the turtle species found in Maine. The various types of turtles in this state include freshwater turtles, box turtles, and sea turtles.

The species range from snapping turtles to painted turtles, wood turtles, musk turtles, Blanding’s turtle, and sea turtles.

For each species of turtle found in Maine, we have shared crucial information like its physical appearance, average adult size, lifespan, habitat, diet, and conservation status.

Hopefully, the information we have shared in this guide will help you understand the turtles in Maine.

Turtles in Maine