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Turtles in Connecticut

There are 12 species of turtles in Connecticut. Eight of these are freshwater or brackish water turtles such as the Bog turtle and the Northern Diamondback terrapin. There are also four species of Sea turtles that can be spotted off the coast of the Constitution State, if you’re lucky to see them.

This list will explore each of these native species, covering their appearance, habitat, and diet. You’re welcome to use this list as a field herping guide when you’re out on the trail, or as a research list if you’re looking for your next pet turtle.

Keep in mind that it is illegal to own some of Connecticut’s native turtles, whilst others have possession limits in place. We’ll cover these regulations later on. If at all possible, please try and adopt a turtle from an animal shelter. If this isn’t possible, then we always recommended purchasing a captive-bred specimen from a registered breeder.

Turtles that exceed 4 inches may be sold in Connecticut, but taking turtles from the wild negatively impacts native populations so avoid this at all costs and don’t buy wild-caught specimens.

Now, let’s dive into the 12 native species of turtles in Connecticut.

Turtles in Connecticut

1. Bog Turtle

Bog Turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii) on grass near foliage
Bog Turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii) on grass near foliage
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Glyptemys muhlenbergii
  • Other Names: Muhlenberg’s turtle
  • Adult Size: 3.5 to 5 inches (9 to 12.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 40 years
  • Average Price Range: $250 to $450

Bog turtles are North America’s smallest turtle species. These Endangered turtles are Connecticut’s rarest species, usually only seen in the western counties of the state. They inhabit wetland areas such as bogs or marshes with lots of grass cover. It is illegal to sell or own a Bog turtle in Connecticut.

Also known as Muhlenberg’s turtle, Bog turtles have black to dark brown to olive shells with a central keel ridge. Some of their scutes may have yellow or red star-like markings. They have distinctive yellow or orange patches on their heads.

Bog turtles are diurnal omnivores, eating a diet of insects and mollusks along with occasional pieces of vegetation. They are usually active during the warmest times of the day.

2. Eastern Box Turtle

Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina)
Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina)
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Terrapene carolina carolina
  • Other Names: Common Box turtle, Land turtle
  • Adult Size: 4 to 7 inches (10 to 18 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 40 years
  • Average Price Range: $120 to $400

Eastern Box turtles are a species of Special Concern in Connecticut and can be found in various parts of the state. These turtles spend most of their time on land and inhabit grassland and woodland regions with access to ponds.

Eastern Box turtles have dark brown shells with high domes and distinctive yellow and orange stripe or dot markings. Their plastrons are also dark brown and are concave in males and flat in females. Their skin is brown with more orange markings.

These terrestrial turtles are omnivores, consuming small fish, insects, fruits and plants and even carrion on occasion. They can roam up to 50 meters a day in search of food.

3. Northern Diamondback Terrapin

Northern Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin terrapin)
Northern Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin terrapin)
  • Experience Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Malaclemys terrapin terrapin
  • Other Names: Diamond-backed terrapin
  • Adult Size: 4.5 to 9 inches (11.5 to 23 cm)
  • Lifespan: 25 to 40 years
  • Average Price Range: $250 to $300

Northern Diamondback terrapins are aquatic turtles that inhabit brackish waters of tidal estuaries and marshes that lie to west from the Connecticut River. They can often be seen swimming in the water with their heads poking out, similar to periscopes.

Northern Diamondback terrapins have light gray skin with black speckling. They have thick webbed feet on their hind legs. Their shells range from black to brown to gray, with concentric rings on their scutes.

These omnivorous turtles feed on crustaceans, insects, mollusks, and shellfish such as clams or winkles. They will also occasionally eat vegetation. Northern Diamondback terrapins are one of Connecticut’s prohibited native species in terms of both sale and possession.

4. Common Musk Turtle

Common musk turtle (Sternotherus odoratus) being held in air retracted in its shell
Common musk turtle (Sternotherus odoratus) being held in air retracted in its shell
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Kinosternidae
  • Scientific Name: Sternotherus odoratus
  • Other Names: Eastern Musk turtle, Stinkpot
  • Adult Size: 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 50+ years
  • Average Price Range: $20 to $90

Common Musk turtles are a small aquatic species that prefers boggy or marshy habitats with clear, slow-moving waters. They are also known as “Stinkpots” thanks to the strong odor that they can release from their musk glands as a defense mechanism. They can be seen in lowland regions in central eastern and western counties, particularly around the major river systems such as the Thames River.

Common Musk turtles have unmarked shells that range from black to dark brown to gray-green. They have fleshy barbels on their chins and necks along with two yellowish stripes running across their throats.

These small turtles are nocturnal omnivores that mainly eat small amphibians, crustaceans, and mollusks.

5. Eastern Painted Turtle

Eastern Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta picta)
Eastern Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta picta)
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Chrysemys picta picta
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 4 to 10 inches (10 to 25.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
  • Average Price Range: $20 to $50

Eastern Painted turtles are the most common species in Connecticut and can be found in most parts of the state in calm, shallow waters like marshes and ponds. These medium-sized aquatic turtles are a popular pet species.

Eastern Painted turtles have black to dark brown shells with reddish markings on the fringes of the carapace. Their scutes occur in straight rows with pale front edges running parallel to each other. Eastern Painted turtles also have yellowish stripes running down their faces and necks.

This subspecies of Painted turtle is omnivorous, usually eating small amphibians, dead fish, and insects. They may also occasionally eat vegetation. These diurnal turtles like to bask on logs at the water’s edge.

6. Common Snapping Turtle

Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) basking on barge
Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) basking on barge
  • Experience Level: Intermediate to Expert
  • Family: Chelydridae
  • Scientific Name: Chelydra serpentina
  • Other Names: Common Snapper, Eastern Snapping turtle, Snapper
  • Adult Size: 8 to 20 inches (20 to 51 cm)
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
  • Average Price Range: $20 to $40

Common Snapping turtles are widespread across most of Connecticut. They usually prefer larger bodies of water such as lakes or reservoirs and are Connecticut’s biggest freshwater species. Although they can be legally kept as pets, they are suitable only for intermediate or expert keepers.

Common Snappers are famous for their powerful, hooked beaks, strong claws, and long tails covered with saw-toothed spines. Their thick dark brown or green shells have three prominent ridges in the center.

These aquatic turtles will eat whatever they can catch. They usually consume amphibians, fish, smaller turtles, and even waterbirds if they can get close enough. They may also occasionally eat plant matter.

7. Spotted Turtle

Spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata) on log basking
Spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata) on log basking
  • Experience Level: Intermediate to Expert
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Clemmys guttata
  • Other Names: Polka-dot turtle
  • Adult Size: 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 25 to 50 years
  • Average Price Range: $75 to $100

Spotted turtles are a species of Special Concern in Connecticut and are limited to just one specimen per owner. These semi-aquatic turtle are found in parts of Connecticut with low elevations, preferring boggy and marshy habitats with shallow waters.

Spotted turtles have smooth black shells that are covered with bright yellow spots. Their plastrons are also yellow and have large black patches of varying sizes on either side. Their tails are fairly long and they have yellow, orange, or red patches on their cheeks and chins.

Spotted turtles are omnivores that usually eat a diet of crustaceans, insects, and mollusks. They may also occasionally eat plant matter.

8. Wood Turtle

Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) basking on downd tree in Middlesex County, Massachussets
Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) basking on downd tree in Middlesex County, Massachussets
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Glyptemys insculpta
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 5.5 to 8 inches (14 to 20 cm)
  • Lifespan: 40  to 60 years
  • Average Price Range: $250 to $500

Wood turtles are another of Connecticut’s prohibited species. These turtles are listed as a Special Concern and can be found in various woodland habitats across the state. They need access to shallow, slow-moving ponds and streams that have sandy bottoms.

Wood turtles are named for their sculpted-looking shells. These are usually dark brown and sport patterns that resemble growth rings and wood grain. Their scutes can sometimes look as if they are pyramiding which adds to their sculpted shape.

These turtles are diurnal omnivores roam who mainly eat berries, plants, insects, and mollusks. They will forage widely and will sometimes stomp their feet on the ground to trick earthworms into surfacing.

There are also four species of Sea turtles that can be seen in Connecticut’s coastal waters, especially in the area around the tidal estuary of Long Island Sound. All of these Sea turtles are Endangered and may not be sold or owned under any circumstances.

We’ve provided a brief overview of these species below with links to their own pages for more information.

9. Atlantic Green Sea Turtle

female green sea turtle eating sea grass
female green sea turtle eating sea grass
  • Family: Cheloniidae
  • Scientific Name: Chelonia mydas
  • Other Names: Green Sea turtle
  • Adult Size: 3 to 4 feet (90 to 120 cm)
  • Weight: 300 to 400 lbs (135 to 180 kg)
  • Lifespan: 80 to 100 years
  • Conservation Status: Endangered
  • Habitat: Bays and shores along coastlines and open ocean waters, seen during summer months
  • Clutch Size: Around 110 to 115 eggs, with 2 to 5 clutches per breeding season
  • Food: Mostly herbivores, eating algae, sea grasses and seaweed
  • Appearance: Smooth green to brown shells shaped like hearts, edged in yellow. Cream colored scaly skin with shades of green

Head to our Green Sea turtles page for more information.

10. Atlantic Ridley Sea Turtle

Kemp’s ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) that has been outfitted with a miniature, solar-powered satellite transmitter
Kemp’s ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) that has been outfitted with a miniature, solar-powered satellite transmitter – source
  • Family: Cheloniidae
  • Scientific Name: Lepidochelys kempii
  • Other Names: Kemp’s Ridley Sea turtle
  • Adult Size: Around 25 inches (63.5 cm)
  • Weight: 75 to 100 lbs (34 to 45 kg)
  • Lifespan: Around 30 years
  • Conservation Status: Critically Endangered
  • Habitat: Sandy or muddy coastlines with shallow waters
  • Clutch Size: Between 100 and 110 eggs, 2 to 3 clutches per breeding season
  • Food: Crustaceans, shellfish
  • Appearance: Slightly hooked beaks, triangle-shaped heads. Green to gray round shells. Muted cream or yellow plastrons and undersides.

Visit our Ridley sea turtle page for more information.

11. Leatherback Turtle

Leatherback Sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) laying eggs on beach
Leatherback Sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) laying eggs on beach
  • Family: Dermochelyidea
  • Scientific Name: Dermochelys coriacea
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 6 to 7 feet (182 to 213 cm)
  • Weight: 1200 to 1450 lbs (545 to 658 kg)
  • Lifespan: Around 30 years
  • Conservation Status: Vulnerable
  • Habitat: Warm waters, mainly shallow, calm bays or lagoons. Nests common on sandy beaches.
  • Clutch Size: Between 100 and 110 eggs
  • Food: Jellyfish is the staple of their diet, but they will also eat other sea creatures
  • Appearance: Their large carapaces are soft, unique among sea turtles, with prominent ridges all the way down. Colors vary between black and a dark gray.

For more information, see our Leatherback sea turtle page.

12. Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) swimming in ocean
Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) swimming in ocean
  • Family: Cheloniidae
  • Scientific Name: Caretta caretta
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 30 to 45 inches (76 to 114 cm)
  • Weight: Approximately 155 pounds (70 kg)
  • Lifespan: 70 to 80 years
  • Conservation Status: Endangered
  • Habitat: Coastal regions, mainly shallow bays. Prefer sub-tropical waters. Sandy ocean beaches for nesting
  • Clutch Size: Between 100 and 125 eggs, 4 to 5 clutches per breeding season
  • Food: Carnivorous, mainly eating shellfish, mollusks, and crustaceans
  • Appearance: Largest hard-shelled turtles with a reddish-brown carapace and large heads. Undersides are cream to yellowish. Long powerful flippers

Check out our Loggerhead sea turtle page for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions about Connecticut’s Turtles

What kind of turtles live in Connecticut?

Connecticut is home to 12 species of turtle. Eight of these species are found in brackish and freshwater habitats and include species such as the Eastern Box turtle, Northern Diamondback terrapin, and Eastern Painted turtles.

Four species of endangered Sea turtles can also be seen in the waters off the coast of Connecticut, particularly in the Long Island Sound tidal estuary. These are the Atlantic Green Sea turtle, Atlantic Ridley turtle, Leatherback turtle, and Loggerhead turtle.

Are turtles illegal in Connecticut?

Unlike in some states, it is legal to keep some of Connecticut’s native species as pets. However, three species; Bog turtles, Northern Diamondback terrapins, and Wood turtles, are completely prohibited and must not be owned or sold.

Two species, the Eastern Box turtle and the Spotted turtle, have a strict possession limit of just one specimen per species. Eastern Box turtles may not be taken from the wild at any time of year.

Any turtles that are imported from other areas can only be possessed with a permit from Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. All turtles, apart from the three prohibited species mentioned above, may be bought and sold in Connecticut provided that their shell length exceeds 4 inches and that they are captive-bred.

Conclusion

Well that concludes our list of the 12 native species of turtles in Connecticut. We’ve covered several freshwater and brackish water turtles such as Eastern Box turtles and Spotted turtles as well as four species of Sea turtles that can be seen in Connecticut’s coastal waters.

Whether you use this list as a field herping guide or a way of choosing your next pet turtle, we hope you enjoyed it. If you did, please leave a comment down below and discuss Connecticut’s native turtles with us!

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