Turtles in Pennsylvania

Turtles in Pennsylvania – 15 Species That are Found Here

Pennsylvania is home to 15 turtle species, including the painted turtles, softshells, map turtles, mud and musk turtles, Blanding’s turtles, bog turtles, wood turtles, pond sliders, Cooters, and box turtles.

All these turtles are freshwater species, except for box turtles which inhabit the woodlands and grasslands of Southern and central Pennsylvania

ONLY 13 of these turtles are native to the state. The other two are non-native and include the red-eared sliders and yellow-bellied sliders—collectively known as pond sliders.

Some of the turtles in Pennsylvania are also endangered species and include bog turtles and Blanding’s turtles.

The following guide will walk you through each of the turtle species (both native and invasive) of Oregon and basic information like habitat, diet, size, lifespan, and more.

15 Types Of Turtles in Pennsylvania

Contents

1. Common Snapping Turtle

 Common Snapping Turtle in Pennsylvania
  • 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 Pennsylvania. 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 Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania 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. Painted Turtle

 Painted Turtle in Pennsylvania
  • 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 painted turtle is one of the most recognizable turtle species in Pennsylvania, thanks to its beautiful and unique coloring. There are two subspecies of painted turtles in Pennsylvania—the midland (Chrysemys picta marginata) and eastern (Chrysemys picta picta) turtles.

This painted turtle sub-species in Pennsylvania 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.

Painted turtles in Pennsylvania are omnivorous and will eat small amphibians, mollusks, and insects.

One interesting fact about these Pennsylvania 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.

3. Midland Smooth Softshell

 Midland Smooth Softshell in Pennsylvania
  • Scientific name: Apalone mutica 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 Pennsylvania!

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.

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

Smooth softshell turtles of Pennsylvania 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. Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle

 Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle in Pennsylvania
  • 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 Pennsylvania’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 Pennsylvania 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. Northern Red-bellied Cooter

 Northern Red-bellied Cooter in Pennsylvania
  • Scientific name: Pseudemys rubriventris
  • Common name: Northern Red-Bellied Turtle,American red-bellied turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 10 to 12 inches
  • Lifespan: 40 to 60 years
  • Conservation status: Not Threatened

As you can tell from its name, this species features a completely red (vibrant) plastron, sometimes covered with green spots. The turtle is known to live in freshwater streams, ponds, and lakes in Pennsylvania.

And when the conditions allow, the turtle will venture into brackish streams near the Pennsylvania coast.

A redbelly Cooter differs from other turtles with its head pattern which has lighter markings forming a distinct arrow shape, pointing toward the snout. The upper shell ranges form from dark brown to black.

Since the Northern redbelly turtles of Pennsylvania are mainly herbivorous, they mostly feed on aquatic plants.

Note that this turtle species in Pennsylvania face many threats including wetland loss, habitat loss, pollution, and collection for selling as pets.

See also  Types of Sea Turtles

At some point, this turtle was even sold for consumption (some countries still consume it even today!)

6. Northern Map Turtle

 Northern Map Turtle in Pennsylvania
  • Scientific name: Graptemys geographica
  • Common name: Northern Map Turtle, Common Map Turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 3 to 10 inches
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The common map turtle has also been observed in Pennsylvania. To be more specie, this freshwater turtle resides in the rivers and lakes of Pennsylvania.

They prefer living in large waterbodies with debris. These offer the perfect spots for basking while the water bodies enable them to spend their hibernation periods in winter completely submerged.

Like other map turtles, this common map turtle gets its name from the map-like pattern on its shell. Its shell is typically darker and ranges from brown to black. The map pattern has a lighter coloration.

The common map turtle of Pennsylvania is mainly carnivorous and feeds on mollusks such as clams and snails. It will also eat crayfish and insects. And when animal matter gets scarce, it will feed on plant matter.

Note that it may be difficult to spot a common map turtle in the wild in Pennsylvania. Although active during the day, these turtles are quite timid and will quickly retreat to the waters at the slightest disturbance.

7. Eastern Mud Turtle

 Eastern Mud Turtle in Pennsylvania
  • 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 Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania.

Since the Pennsylvania 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).

Also read: Turtles in Illinois

8. Eastern Musk Turtle

 Eastern Musk Turtle in Pennsylvania
  • 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 Eastern Musk Turtle is another aquatic turtle found in Pennsylvania’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.

Eastern musk turtles of Pennsylvania 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 musk 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 Pennsylvania 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.

9. Blanding’s Turtle

 Blanding’s Turtle in Pennsylvania
  • 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.

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

The 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 Pennsylvania 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 in Pennsylvania 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.

10. Bog Turtle

 Bog Turtle in Pennsylvania
  • 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 Pennsylvania 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 low numbers in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Mind you; selling or owning a bog turtle in Pennsylvania 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.

See also  Turtles in Illinois - 17 Species That are Found Here

11. Spotted Turtle

 Spotted Turtle in Pennsylvania
  • 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 Pennsylvania 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.

Unfortunately, the population of spotted turtles in Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania state, you can only own ONE spotted turtle and not more than that!

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

12. Wood Turtle

 Wood Turtle in Pennsylvania
  • 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 Pennsylvania 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.

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 Pennsylvania 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.

13. Red-eared Slider

 Red-eared Slider in Pennsylvania
  • 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 sub-species of pond sliders and a non-native species of Pennsylvania. 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 Pennsylvania are pretty large and the adults reach 7-12 in length (though females are generally larger than males).

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

14. Yellow-bellied Slider

 Yellow-bellied Slider in Pennsylvania
  • 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 non-native to the Southern region of the United States, including Pennsylvania.

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 Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania 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.

15. Eastern Box Turtle

 Eastern Box Turtle in Pennsylvania
  • 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 are native to Pennsylvania. 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 Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania 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: Turtles in Indiana

Conclusion

There you have it; the 15 turtles inhabiting the state of Pennsylvania! Nearly all these turtles are freshwater species.

The freshwater species live in rivers and lakes and include painted turtles, softshells, map turtles, mud and musk turtles, Blanding’s turtles, bog turtles, wood turtles, pond sliders, and Cooters.

The only terrestrial turtle in the state is the eastern box turtle which is mostly found in central and southern Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately, most of these native states are endangered or threatened, making it illegal to possess them.

The protected species of Pennsylvania include the bog turtles, Blanding’s turtles, northern red-bellied Cooters, spotted turtles, wood turtles, eastern mud turtles, and midland painted turtles.

Turtles in Pennsylvania