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Turtles In Delaware

Types of Turtles in Delaware

There are nine turtles in Delaware. Most of them prefer living close to wetlands or other waterways. The only terrestrial turtle in Delaware is the Eastern box turtle.

The United States is the only place where you can find more than 100 turtle species and subspecies. Since they aren’t evenly distributed, you can’t see all of the turtle species in just one country.

Types of turtles that live in Delaware:

  1. Common Snapping TurtleChelydra serpentina
  2. Common Musk TurtleSternotherus odoratus
  3. Eastern Mud TurtleKinosternon subrubrum
  4. Eastern Box TurtleTerrapene carolina
  5. Eastern Painted TurtleChrysemys picta
  6. Northern Red-bellied TurtlePseudemys rubriventris
  7. Northern Diamondback TerrapinMalaclemys terrapin
  8. Red-eared SliderTrachemys scripta elegans
  9. Spotted Turtle Clemmys guttata

1. Common Snapping Turtle

Common Snapping Turtle
Common Snapping Turtle on gravel

Quick Facts

  • Color: It ranges from brown to black.
  • Lifespan: It varies between 30 and 50 years.
  • Looks: Very long legs, neck and head very mobile, and beak-like jaws
  • Size: Some might reach 50 cm, while most of them are 20 to 47 cm in length
  • Weight: It usually weighs from 4.5 to 16 kg.
  • Habitat: Can be found in any freshwater that had a muddy bottom.
  • Diet: It’s omnivorous, which means it feeds on meat and plants. The turtle will scavenge for meat, and it preys on smaller animals in the water.
  • Conservation Status: Least concern.
  • Reproduction: Females search for sandy soil to lay eggs. It usually deposits 25 to 80 eggs once per year. The incubation period is almost 100 days long.

The Common Snapping Turtle is a freshwater turtle that is the most widespread in Delaware. It has beak-like jaws and head and neck that are easily moveable.

When in water, they want to hide underwater in sediment. The same as most turtles, the Common Snapping Turtle has delayed maturity and a long lifespan.

Although the specific lifespan is uncertain, research shows that the maximum age is over 100 years. Most of them mature later when they reach the age of 15-20 years.

2. Common Musk Turtle

Common Musk Turtle
Common Snapping Turtle in tank

Quick Facts

  • Color: It can be gray, black, or brown.
  • Lifespan: It usually lives 30 to 50 years.
  • Looks: It has a domed shell. There are two light-colored stripes on its head.
  • Size: This turtle is tiny. Its length is between 5.1 and 14 cm.
  • Weight: It weighs around 600 g.
  • Habitat: It’s an aquatic turtle, so it benefits from slow-moving and still waters. Soft and muddy bottoms are this turtle’s favorites.
  • Diet: Common Musk Turtles are omnivores, so they prey on small aquatic and semi-aquatic animals, carrion, and aquatic plants.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern
  • Reproduction: Nesting time begins in May and lasts for four months. The incubation period of laying eggs is around 75 days.

The Common Musk Turtle is also known as the stinkpot to release an odor from its scent glands to protect itself from predators. It belongs in the same family as mud turtles.

Males are different from female turtles because they have longer tails. Females are also bigger than males. Their head has a triangle shape, and they have a pointed snout and a sharp beak.

3. Eastern Mud Turtle

Eastern Mud Turtle
Eastern Mud Turtle

Quick Facts

  • Color: It ranges from yellow to black.
  • Lifespan: It usually lives 30 to 50 years.
  • Looks: It’s plain-looking, the carapace as well. The stripes on the head may very from white to yellow.
  • Size: The turtle is usually 7.6 – 10.2 cm in length.
  • Habitat: Mud turtles like to stay in water bodies that have a soft and muddy bottom. You can see them in lakes, rivers, and marshes.
  • Diet: They are omnivores, so they prefer eating meat, fish, snails, fruits, vegetables, and other plants.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern.
  • Reproduction: Nesting season starts in May and lasts until the end of July. The incubation period, compared to other turtle’s period, is almost 110 days long. The clutch size is between two and five.

For the purpose of finding food, you can spot the Eastern Mud Turtle in muddy or sandy bottoms of lakes, rivers, marshes, and ponds walking slowly.

This type of turtle is semi-aquatic, so seeing it walking on land after raining is quite common.

The best way to make a distinction between the Mud Turtle and the Stinkpot is by observing the two hinges on the plastron.

It’s a common feature to make closing from behind and front easier, the same as the hinges of the Eastern Box Turtle.

4. Eastern Box Turtle

Eastern Box turtle being held in hand closed up
Eastern Box turtle being held in hand closed up

Quick Facts

  • Color: It can be brownish or black, with spots that are yellowish or orangish.
  • Lifespan: It usually lives 50 to 100 years.
  • Looks: The turtle is noticeable by its shell pattern and skin. It also has a high carapace and a hinged plastron. Eastern Box Turtles have five toes on each front leg, and four toes on its hind legs.
  • Size: It’s usually between 12 and 17 cm.
  • Habitat: This type of turtle is a terrestrial turtle, so it prefers living on land. Open woodlands, forests, and meadows are the turtle’s favorite habitats.
  • Diet: They are omnivores, so they’d prey on insects, meat, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Conservation Status: Vulnerable.
  • Reproduction: It’s between May and July. The incubation period is 70 to 80 days. A female can lay between one to nine eggs in a single year.

The number of Eastern Box Turtles seems to be on the decline in recent years due to the removal from natural habitat, death from cars and lawnmowers, and habitat loss.

Female turtles have brown eyes and flat plastrons, while males have red eyes and concave plastrons.

Like most turtles, female Eastern Box Turtles have delayed fertility, keeping the sperm in the oviducts for several years before fertilization and laying.

5. Eastern Painted Turtle

Eastern Painted Turtle
Eastern Painted Turtle on rocks

Quick Facts

  • Color: It can be from dark olive to black. The color of the shell is similar to the skin, yet the edges can be red, orange, or yellow.
  • Lifespan: It varies from 20 to 30 years.
  • Looks: The top shell is dark and smooth. It also has straight-aligned top shell parts. The plastron can be yellow or red, with dark markings in the center. Males have longer foreclaws and thicker tales.
  • Size: The male turtle is between 13 and 17 cm, while the female turtle is between 14 and 17 cm.
  • Weight: Male turtles weigh around 300g. The females weigh around 500 g.
  • Habitat: The subspecies of the Eastern Painted Turtle like to populate freshwaters, so you can see them in ponds, rivers, and lakes.
  • Diet: This type of turtle is an omnivore, so it feeds on meat, vegetables, and fruits.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern.
  • Reproduction: The nesting season begins in March and it lasts for four months. It takes around 80 days for the eggs to hatch. The clutch size is between four and five eggs.

This subspecies of the Painted Turtle is the most common type of turtle in Delaware.

Just like other basking turtles, the Eastern Painted Turtles prefer soft bottom bodies of waters, proper adequate basking areas, and a lot of plants surrounding them.

The Eastern Painted Turtle is most vulnerable to garter snakes, crows, squirrels, skunks, raccoons, humans. The hatchlings can become pray to water bugs, snapping turtles, some types of snakes, and catfish.

6. Northern Red-bellied Turtle

Northern red-bellied cooter (Pseudemys_rubriventris)
Northern red-bellied cooter (Pseudemys_rubriventris)

Quick Facts

  • Color: The color of the skin and the carapace is dark brown or black. The front part of the shell has a red pattern which is more visible at the shell’s edges. The plastron is completely red and has black pattern in the middle. Stripes cover the skin that range from white, yellow, to red. 
  • Lifespan: The turtle can live up to 60 years.
  • Looks: Older turtles are darker than the younger ones, and don’t have a pattern. Hatchlings have a green color.
  • Size: It can be up to 30 cm.
  • Weight: It weighs around 3 kg.
  • Habitat: Northern Red-bellied Turtles prefer still waters, such as lakes and ponds.
  • Diet: They are mainly herbivores, so they eat aquatic plants.
  • Conservation Status: Not Threatened.
  • Reproduction: It begins in March and lasts until June; the incubation period is around 80 days.

Red-bellied cooters are fairly large turtle. Female turtles of this type can reach a size of 40 cm.

There are many threats to the turtle’s survival, such as wetland loss, pollution, collection for pet trade and food, and habitat loss.

At one point, the Northern Red-bellied Turtle was sold for consumption and some countries still consume it for their daily food intake.

7. Northern Diamondback Terrapin

northern-diamondback-turtle
northern-diamondback-turtle

Quick Facts

  • Color: It has a light color and dark spots.
  • Lifespan: The turtle lives between 25 and 30 years.
  • Looks: It has a diamond shape on the carapace. The shell can be wider at the back and thinner in the front. The turtle has big webbed feet.
  • Size: Males have a size of 10 to 16 cm, while females have 13 to 20 cm.
  • Weight: Males weigh 300 g, while females weigh around 500 g.
  • Habitat: They prefer to live in brackish habitats, including salt marshes, inland bays, and tidal flats.
  • Diet: The turtle is a carnivorous, so it feeds mostly on meat coming from fish, insects, and other small animals.
  • Conservation Status: Vulnerable.
  • Reproduction: Nesting begins at April and the incubation period can last up to 80 days.

The Northern Diamondback Turtle is one species of Diamondback terrapin that can be seen at the end of May when females appear to lay their eggs in sandy places.

There was a point when the numbers of this type of turtle decreased due to hatchlings loss at road crossings and drowning in crab pots.

Due to the strong webbed feet, male turtles are strong swimmers. Like their relatives, the other subspecies, they have strong jaws to crush the clams and snails when eating. Females have more muscular jaws than males.

8. Red-eared Slider

Red Eared Slider
Red Eared Slider in grass

Quick Facts

  • Color: The color of the skin and shell can brown or black, while the skin is also covered in yellow stripes. They also have red lines that can be seen behind the turtles’ eyes. 
  • Lifespan: It varies between 30 and 40 years.
  • Looks: The shell is divided into the dorsal carapace and the plastron. There are vertebral scouts on the upper carapace. The carapace is also oval or flat, especially in male turtles. 
  • Size: The length of the turtle can be between 18 and 30 cm. Females are bigger than male turtles.
  • Habitat: Since it’s a semi-aquatic turtle, it prefers living in creeks, lakes, ponds, and marshes. 
  • Diet: They are omnivores, so they prey on fish, insects, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern.
  • Reproduction: The season begins in March and lasts until the end of June. The clutch size is between two and 30 eggs, depending on the body size.

In the 70’s, many of the Red-eared Sliders were purchased as a pet for a small sum of money. Luckily, many of the small turtles survived and they were released in the ponds and rivers throughout the U.S.

You can easily distinguish this type of turtle from the rest by the colorful markings on their heads. The concentric yellow rings on the shell make this turtle unique.

Courtship and mating activities between the males and females occur under water. The mating begins when the female swims towards the male. If she is receptive, the courtship lasts for 45 minutes, while the mating takes only 10 minutes.

9. Spotted Turtle

Spotted turtle (Clemmys Guttata) in the wild
Spotted turtle (Clemmys Guttata) in the wild

Quick Facts

  • Color: The front part of the carapace has yellow, orange, or red spots. The upper part of the skin is black and it also has sports. The lower part of the skin can be yellow, orange, or red, the same as the underside of the shell.
  • Lifespan: This species can live between 100 and 150 years.
  • Looks: Males have a concave plastron, while females have a convex one. Male turtles have brown eyes, while females have red eyes, an orange chin, and a yellow beak. The male’s tail is thicker than the female’s.
  • Size: They are one of the smallest species in the U.S. Their length can range from eight to 12 cm.
  • Habitat: The semi-aquatic turtle favors marshes, swamps, lakes, streams, and wet meadows.
  • Diet: They are omnivores, so they feed on aquatic vegetation and invertebrates.
  • Conservation Status: Endangered.
  • Reproduction: The nesting season begins in May and lasts until the end of July. Incubation period can be up to 90 days.

The Spotted Turtle when it reaches adulthood can have a carapace length of eight to 12 cm. Mature males have a dark face and iris, while females have a yellow or orange iris.

As it’s semi-aquatic turtle, it occupies shallow and slow-moving waters that have a soft bottom. You can see the turtle in waters with duckweed, so the yellow spots on the turtle serve a form of camouflage.

Conclusion

Delaware is a home to nine types of turtles. Most of them prefer living in still-moving waters that have soft bottoms.

The carapace and plastron of the turtle tells a lot about the species. The color and shape of the spots make the distinction easier.

Nesting season of most of the types begins in March and ends in June or July. The clutch size of each species varies depending on the body size, habitat, and maturity of the female turtle.

Although the conservation status depends on each species, there are some, such as the Spotted Turtle, that are endangered.

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