Turtles in Texas

Turtles in Texas – 30 Species That are Found Here

Texas is home to 30 turtle species. Texas is one of the top states in the US that enjoy turtle diversity.

They boast every species of turtle ranging from fully aquatic freshwater turtles to semi-aquatic, sea turtles, terrestrial turtles, and even tortoises.

The majority of the turtles that make up this list are freshwater turtles and include the snapping turtles, softshells, chicken turtles, map turtles, mud turtles, musk turtles, diamondback terrapins, and Cooters.

Some of these freshwater species, such as alligator map turtle and eastern box turtle, have endangered or threatened spaces and are protected by the state.

Texas tortoise is also native to the state and is commonly found in the southern areas, close to the state’s border with Mexico.

All 4 sea turtles in Texas are endangered species and include Kemp Ridley sea turtle, green sea turtles, and others.

Our guide below takes you through the full list of all the 30 turtles inhabiting the state of Texas and the key facts you need to know about them.

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.

30 Types Of Turtles In Texas

Contents

1. Alligator Snapping Turtle

 Alligator Snapping Turtle in Texas
  • 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 Texas. 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 Texas.

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 Texas
  • 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 Texas. 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 Texas 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 Texas 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. Midland Smooth Softshell Turtle

 Midland Smooth Softshell Turtle in Texas
  • 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 midland smooth softshell turtle boasts its position as the fastest turtle on land in Texas! It is mainly found in select Texas northeastern counties.

Though most people believe these turtles are slow-moving, they must be quick to enable them to outrun their predators given that their soft shells don’t offer much protection.

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Spiny Softshell Turtle

 Spiny Softshell Turtle in Texas
  • 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 Texas’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 Texas 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. Chicken Turtle

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

6. Texas Diamond-backed Terrapin

 Texas Diamond-backed Terrapin
  • Scientific name: Malaclemys terrapin
  • Common name: Diamondback Terrapin, Texas 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 Texas 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 Texas 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 can be found along the coast in tidal flats, salt marshes, barrier beaches, and brackish streams in Texas. They can also stay in full-strength saltwater for longer periods of time.

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

7. Cagle’s Map Turtle

 Cagle’s Map Turtle in Texas
  • Scientific name: Graptemys caglei
  • Common name: Cagle’s Map Turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 8 to 10 inches (females), 3 to 5 inches (males)
  • Lifespan: 3o to 50 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The Cagle’s map turtle is also native to Texas. However, it has a pretty small population and is only found in Guadalupe River System in southern Texas.

It gets its name from herpetologist Dr. Fred Ray Cagle. It is somewhat similar to other map turtles in that it has a dark shell with steep keels and serrated rears. it also has cream to yellowish spots on its head.

Cagle’s map turtle of Texas is omnivorous, just like other map turtles. It feeds on mollusks, insects, and (occasionally) vegetation.

This is an endangered species and is under protection by Texas regulations.

Nonetheless, the turtle still finds its way to the pet markets. This is due to its small size, eye-pleasing green coloring, and ease of care—these traits are quite rare among the map turtles.

8. Mississippi Map Turtle

 Mississippi Map Turtle in Texas
  • 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 Texas. This turtle’s preferred habitat in Texas 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 Texas 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 Texas, 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.

9. Ouachita Map Turtle

 Ouachita Map Turtle in Texas
  • 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 Texas 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 Texas 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.

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Note that this turtle prefers living in stagnant or slow-moving waters, including ponds, lakes, and streams. of Texas 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.

10. Sabine Map Turtle

 Sabine Map Turtle in Texas
  • 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

The Sabine Map Turtle is another inhabitant of Texas 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 Texas and Texas.

Sabine map turtle in Texas 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.

11. Texas Map Turtle

 Texas Map Turtle in Texas
  • Scientific name: Graptemys versa
  • Common name: Texas Map Turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 3 to 5 inches
  • Lifespan: 3o to 40 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

This is a relatively smaller subspecies of map turtles endemic to Texas. It is mainly concentrated in the central regions flanking Colorado river. It can also be found in Concho and Llano river systems.

It prefers living in faster-moving waterbodies. Although it basks regularly it rarely strays far from the waters. it is an excellent swimmer and even when nesting, it will not go farther than 10 ft. from its pond.

The Texas map turtle’s shell varies from olive to brown and is covered with yellow patterns—just like the contours of a map. Moreover, this turtle has easily visible spiked keels.

A series of 3 yellow to orange spots along the bottom of its head distinguishes this turtle from other map turtle species. As an omnivorous turtle, it feeds on plants, aquatic invertebrates, and insects.

12. Eastern Mud Turtle

 Eastern Mud Turtle in Texas
  • 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 Texas’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 Texas 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 Texas 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.

13. Rough-footed Mud Turtle

 Rough-footed Mud Turtle in Texas
  • Scientific name: Kinosternon hirtipes
  • Other common names: Chihuahuan Mud turtle, Big Bend Mud turtle
  • Family: Kinosternidae
  • Size: 5 and 7 inches
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The rough-footed mud turtle is native to Texas and is pretty rare in this state. It is only found in southwestern areas, around the region of Big Bend (hence, it’s also known as the big bend mud turtle).

This mud turtle sports a domed shell ranging from olive to yellowish-brown. Its plastron and skin share the same color, so they easily blend in.

Just like other mud turtle species, this turtle has short and fleshy barbells that protrude from its chin and throat.

The big bend mud turtle of Texas is omnivorous and likes eating mollusks, small fish, invertebrates, and vegetation.

It prefers living in shallow waters where it can easily burrow into the sand or even silt at the bottom.

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14. Yellow Mud Turtle

 Yellow Mud Turtle in Texas
  • Scientific name: Kinosternon arizonense
  • Common name: Yellow Mud Turtle, Mud Turtle
  • Family: Kinosternidae
  • Size: 4-5 inches
  • Lifespan: 40 years
  • Conservation status: Least concern

The Yellow mud turtle is a species native to Texas and prefers living in any waterbody you can come across in Texas state.

Possible places you can find it includes muddy pools, cattle tanks, irrigation ditches, sewer drains, and even cisterns!

This turtle will spend more time on land migrating to new water sources and is never picky about where it can stay.

It has a flattened upper shell with colors varying from brown to black or olive. It also features dark brown edges around its scutes. The skin color is usually olive.

Males have a sharp or horny end as a distinctive feature.

This Texas yellow mud turtle is omnivorous like any other mud turtle. Its diet is made up of a variety of foods including tadpoles, leeches, crayfish, fairy shrimp, and fish.

It will also eat frogs, slugs, and snails. And as an opportunistic feeder, it will also eat decaying animal and plant matter.

15. Common Musk Turtle

 Common Musk Turtle in Texas
  • 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 Texas’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 Texas 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 Texas 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.

16. Razor-backed Musk Turtle

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

17. Painted Turtle

 Painted Turtle in Texas
  • Scientific name: Chrysemys Picta
  • Common name: Painted Turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 4 to 10 inches
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

Texas is home to two subspecies of painted turtles namely the western painted turtle (Chrysemys Picta Belli) and the southern painted turtle (Chrysemys Picta Dorsalis).

Southern painted turtles are usually found around Caddo Lake near the border with the state of Louisiana while the western painted turtles are confined in several western counties. However, both turtle subspecies are quite rare in Texas and you may not easily spot them.

Painted are generally identified by dark shells with yellow to red coloring at the edges. They have yellow stripes on their faces.

Southern painted turtles stand out from the other painted turtles due to their yellow or orange band that runs down their shell spines.

These turtles are mainly aquatic and can be spotted near the waters. They also like sunning.

Being omnivorous, painted turtles in Texas will feed on frogs, mollusks, and aquatic invertebrates. Note that they must swallow their food in water, meaning they must feed inside the water.

18. Missouri River Cooter

 Missouri River Cooter in Texas
  • Scientific name: Pseudemys Concinna
  • Common name: Missouri River Cooter
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 8 to 15 inches
  • Lifespan: 20 to 40 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

This river Cooter species also resides in Texas. Its shell is pretty similar to other native species and ranges from olive green to brown, and black. It has yellow lines down its limbs and head.

Yellow lines, alongside faint grey markings, can also be spotted along its shell.

The females are generally larger than the males and the males have a flatter shell.

The river Cooter prefers living in water streams in Texas, but it can also be found in lakes and ponds.

This subspecies of river Cooter in Texas is highly omnivorous and at the same time an opportunistic feeder that eats almost anything it can swallow.

Its diet is made up of land plant matter, aquatic plants, and animals (both dead and alive).

Note that the turtle is also an enthusiastic hunter and has been observed going to land to forage worms, and insects, and then retreat to water to feast on its catch.

19. Rio Grande Cooter

 Rio Grande Cooter in Texas
  • Scientific name: Pseudemys Gorzugi
  • Common name: Western River Cooter, Rio Grande River Cooter
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 8 to 12 inches
  • Lifespan: 20 to 40 years
  • Conservation status: Near Threatened

The Rio Grande Cooter is a semi-aquatic turtle that inhabits the southeastern regions of Texas. It is mainly found in larger ponds and rivers with decent depths.

It gets its name from the Rio Grande river in Texas and Texas, where it has been spotted.

This Cooter is easily identified by its shell which is usually olive green or dark brown, or even black. its rearward scutes also appear slightly jagged.

The Swirling patterns of red, orange, or yellow lines can also be seen. As for the plastron, it’s usually yellowish or reddish.

A Rio Grande Cooter in Texas is usually omnivorous and prefers feeding on plants and vegetation. On an occasional basis, however, it can be seen eating mollusks or invertebrates.

Unfortunately, the population of this Cooter in Texas continues to go down due to pollution as well as water diversion projects. This explains why it has near-threatened conservation status.

20. Texas River Cooter

Texas River Cooter
  • Scientific name: Pseudemys texana
  • Common name: Texas River Cooter, Texas Cooter
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 7 to 12 inches
  • Lifespan: 20 to 40 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The Texas River Cooter is another species native to Texas. It is usually found in streams and rivers in Texas central areas. It likes basking in stacks at the edge of the waters.

The shell of this Texas Cooter ranges from dark to light green or olive, and is covered with yellow or orange swirling markings. And just behind its eyes is a vertical yellow stripe.

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Texas river Cooters are primarily herbivorous in adult age and only prefer feeding on vegetation. However, they sometimes eat small fish and insects.

21. Big Bend Slider

 Big Bend Slider in Texas
  • Scientific name: Trachemys Gaigeae
  • Common name: Big Bend Slider, Mexican Plateau Slider
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 5 to 11 inches
  • Lifespan: 20 to 30 years
  • Conservation status: Vulnerable

The big bend slider, also known Mexican plateau slider, is another semi-aquatic turtle native to select central counties of Texas state.

It is pretty close in appearance to its close cousin, the red-eared slider, with the exception that it has fewer red patches around its eyes.

The big bend slider’s upper shell color ranges from olive to dark brown and is covered with a yellow, orange, or red pattern. And the lower side of the shell is yellowish with a few dark spots.

Skin color is usually the same as the carapace and is covered in yellow stripes. Two red spots can be easily spotted on each side near its head.

You’ll find this big bend slider in the pond and rivers of Texas. The turtle is also fond of basking.

Mexican plateau sliders in Texas are mainly herbivorous and like feeding on vegetation as well as fruits, unlike their counterparts (the red-eared sliders) which are omnivorous.

22. Red-eared Slider

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

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

23. Desert Box Turtle

 Desert Box Turtle in Texas
  • Scientific name: Terrapene ornata luteola
  • Common name: Desert Box Turtle, Sonoran box turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 4 to 6 inches
  • Lifespan: 50+ years
  • Conservation status: Near Threatened

The desert box turtle is a subspecies of western box turtles, so it’s a close relative of the ornate box turtle. This box turtle is mainly found in Southwest Texas as well as Northern Mexico.

One of the defining features of this box turtle of Texas is a dome-shaped shell with reddish brown or simply brown color. Markings on the desert turtles look thinner than what you find in its cousin, the ornate box turtles.

Desert box turtles of Texas are omnivorous and mainly feed on insects such as grasshoppers. They also feed on vegetation such as plants, fruits, and cacti.

These turtles prefer arid and semi-arid areas with high temperatures and low soil temperatures. It requires soft soil for resting and has been spotted at prairie dog towns in Texas.

24. Ornate Box Turtle

 Ornate Box Turtle in Texas
  • 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 Texas 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 Texas box turtles, the males are generally smaller than the females.

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

The Texas 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.

They have been observed eating fruits, vegetables, grasshoppers, and various other insects.

25. Three-toed Box Turtle

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

26. Texas Tortoise

 Texas Tortoise in Texas
  • Scientific name: Gopherus berlandieri
  • Common name: Texas Tortoise, Texas gopher tortoise
  • Family: Testudinidae
  • Size: 5.5 to 8 inches
  • Lifespan: 40 to 60 years
  • Conservation status: Threatened

The Texas tortoise is the smallest of all the tortoise species inhabiting North America. It is also the only true tortoise inhabiting Texas state, mainly in the southern region near the Mexico border.

Since it is exclusively terrestrial, this turtle lacks webbed feet. However, it has long sharp claws that it uses to dig outs its resting spots usually known as pallets.

The desert-dwelling tortoise features a large, domed carapace that acts as its reservoir.

Texas tortoise is usually found in open grasslands as well as dry scrub regions of Texas where it gets access to succulent plants which act as its primary source of food. It is especially fond of the prickly pear cactus fruit.

Note that this Texas tortoise is active all year round and is always resting on its pallets instead of hibernating.

Unfortunately, this tortoise has been labeled a threatened species in Texas and is under state protection to keep it from going extinct.

27. Green Sea Turtle

 Green Sea Turtle in Texas
  • 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 Texas. 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 Texas 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 Texas 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.

28. Hawksbill Sea Turtle

 Hawksbill Sea Turtle in Texas
  • 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 Texas and live on shores and bays along the coastlines and open ocean waters in Texas. It is spotted during the summer months.

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

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.

29. Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle

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

30. Loggerhead Sea Turtle

 Loggerhead Sea Turtle in Texas
  • 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 Texas.

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 Texas 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 Texas 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.

Related: Turtles in Michigan

Conclusion

That’s it for the long and diverse list of turtle species in the state of Texas. From this list, it’s evident that the state is home to aquatic, semi-aquatic, terrestrial, and sea turtles. not to forget there’s also a native tortoise species.

The aquatic turtles make the largest list and including common snapping turtles, alligator snapping turtles, map turtles, softshell turtles, chicken turtles, mud turtles, musk turtles, among others.

Texas tortoise is the lone tortoise species inhabiting the state. It is a threatened species and is confined to southern Texas near the Mexico border.

There are also 4 sea turtle species, all of which are endangered. They include green sea turtles, loggerhead sea turtles, kemp’s ridley sea turtles, and hawksbill turtles.

Turtles in Texas