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Turtles In New Mexico

Turtles In New Mexico

There are 10 species of turtles in New Mexico, eight of these species are native, including sliders, cooters, box turtles, softshell turtles, painted turtles and even snapping turtles.

Some of these species are considered vulnerable or threatened, such as the Sonora Mud turtle.

Two species of turtle are also non-native to New Mexico; the Common Snapping turtle and the Red-eared Slider. It is possible that these species were previously captive specimens who were released into the wild.

Check out the list below.

Table of Contents

1. Big Bend Slider

Big Bend Slider in grass
Mexican plateau slider also known as the big bend slider sitting in grass
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Trachemys Gaigeae
  • Other Names: Mexican Plateau Slider
  • Adult Size: Between 5 and 11 inches
  • Lifespan: Between 20 and 30 years
  • Average Price Range: Between $30 and $70

Very similar to their close Red-eared Slider cousins, Big Bend Sliders are an aquatic species found in a couple of central counties of New Mexico.

They mainly inhabit rivers and ponds and like to bask. Big Bend Sliders are considered vulnerable.

Big Bend Sliders have a similar appearance to Red-eared Sliders, with brown to olive upper shells and orange or yellow markings.

However, to distinguish between similar sliders, Big Bend Sliders have less red patches around their eyes.

These turtles are mainly herbivores, eating vegetation and fruits, unlike the omnivorous Red-eared Sliders.

2. Ornate Box Turtle

Female Ornate Box Turtle on patio
Female Ornate Box Turtle on patio
  • Experience Level: Intermediate to Expert
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Terrapine Ornata
  • Other Names: Box Tortoise, Western Box Turtle
  • Adult Size: Between 4 and 5 inches
  • Lifespan: Up to 28 years in captivity, up to 40 years in the wild
  • Average Price Range: Between $130 and $450
  • Where To Buy: Tortoisetown.com
  • Recommended Books: The Box Turtle Manual (Herpetocultual Library) by Philippe De Vosjoli

Ornate Box turtles are a colorful species with distinctive patterning on their shells, sporting a series of yellow to orange stripes. Ornate box turtles inhabit eastern counties of New Mexico.

The Desert Box turtle is a subspecies of the Ornate Box turtle that can be found in New Mexico’s western areas. The two species intersect at various places. Desert Box turtles have more lines on their markings.

These turtles are active during the day and forage for food. They are mostly carnivorous and eat earthworms, insects, and occasionally carrion.

They will also eat plants such as berries or cacti.

Check out our page on the Ornate box turtle for more.

3. Midland Smooth Softshell Turtle

Midland Smooth Softshell Turtle (Apalone mutica mutica)
Midland Smooth Softshell Turtle (Apalone mutica mutica)
  • Experience Level: Intermediate to Expert
  • Family: Trionychidae
  • Scientific Name: Apalone Mutica Mutica
  • Other Names: Spineless Softshell
  • Adult Size: 4 ½ to 7 inches for males, 6 ½ to 14 inches for females
  • Lifespan: 25 years and over
  • Average Price Range: Between $40 and $60
  • Recommended Books: Softshell Turtles Pet Guide by Ben Team

The Midland Smooth Softshell is a subspecies of the Smooth Softshell, and is found in a few north eastern counties of New Mexico.

They mainly inhabit larger rivers, but may be in decline due to the losses of their specialized sand habitats.

Midland Smooth Softshells look like leathery pancakes, and do not have hard shells to protects themselves. They are usually brown or gray, with lines running from behind their eyes and snouts.

They are active during the day and bury themselves in sand in the shallows at night. They mainly eat insects, but also mollusks and crayfish.

4. Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle

Eastern_Spiny_Softshell_Turtle
Eastern_Spiny_Softshell_Turtle
  • Experience Level: Intermediate to Expert
  • Family: Trionychidae
  • Scientific Name: Apalone Spinifera Spinifera
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 5 to 9 ½ inches for males, 7 to 17 inches for females
  • Lifespan: Between 20 and 50 years
  • Average Price Range: Between $70 and $280
  • Where To Buy: Tortoisetown.com
  • Recommended Books: Softshell Turtles Pet Guide by Ben Team

Eastern and Texas Spiny Softshells are subspecies of the Spiny Softshell turtle that are native to New Mexico.

The Texas Spiny Softshell is more common, spread among central and southern counties, whereas the Eastern Spiny Softshell is found mainly in the north east.

Spiny Softshell turtles have a pancake-like shell with dark circles, which is not a hard carapace. Their skin feel like sandpaper, and they have long, tapered beaks.

These turtles are the fast swimmers. They are carnivores and will feed on any crustaceans, invertebrates, and mollusks they can find. They also occasionally eat aquatic plants.

Check our page on spiny softshell turtles for more.

5. Sonora Mud Turtle

Sonora Mud turtle (Kinosternon Sonoriense)
Sonora Mud turtle (Kinosternon Sonoriense)
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Kinosternidae
  • Scientific Name: Kinosternon Sonoriense
  • Other Names: Sonoyta Mud turtle
  • Adult Size: Between 5 and 7 inches
  • Lifespan: Between 30 and 50 years
  • Average Price Range: Between $150 and $295

Sonora Mud turtles are a threatened species confined to south western areas of New Mexico.

They usually prefer rocky areas with rivers, ponds, and streams. They prefer soft substrates where they can burrow.

Their plastrons are yellowish, and they have webbed feet. Their skin is speckled with green and black. Their shells also have scattered black dots.

These turtles have brown to olive domed shells, split by three horizontal keels.

Sonora Mud turtles are mainly omnivores, often feeding on mollusks, invertebrates, amphibians, small fish, and even carrion. They will also occasionally eat plants and other vegetation.

6. Yellow Mud Turtle

Yellow Mud Turtle
Yellow Mud Turtle
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Kinosternidae
  • Scientific Name: Kinosternon Flavescens Flavescens
  • Other Names: Yellow-necked Mud turtle
  • Adult Size: Between 3 and 5 inches
  • Lifespan: Between 10 and 40 years
  • Average Price Range: Between $150 and $295
  • Where To Buy: theturtlesource.com
  • Recommended Books: Yellow Mud Turtle: The Ultimate Guide by Dr. Bolton James

Yellow Mud Turtles are a small species common to many areas of New Mexico.

They mainly inhabit marshes and ponds at the bottom of valleys and like to burrow and dig, often in sandy areas.

These small turtles have unmarked shells that are usually olive in color. They have some yellow coloring around their faces and also have yellow plastrons.

Yellow Mud turtles mainly eat crustaceans, aquatic invertebrates, earthworms, and mollusks. They mainly catch their prey in the water, and can consume food either in the water or on land.

Learn more about the yellow mud turtle here.

7. Rio Grande Cooter

Rio Grande Cooter (Pseudemys gorzugi)
Rio Grande River Cooter also known as the Western River Cooter on white background

Rio Grande Cooters are a species of semi-aquatic freshwater turtle that can be found in a couple of south eastern counties in New Mexico.

They mainly inhabit larger rivers and pools that have decent depths.

These turtles have shells that vary from olive green to dark brown, even black.

Their rearward scutes are slightly jagged. Rio Grande Cooters have swirling patterns of yellow, orange, or red lines. Their plastrons are yellow or reddish.

Rio Grande Cooters are omnivorous turtles, mainly preferring plants and vegetation. However, they will occasionally eat mollusks or invertebrates.

8. Western Painted Turtle

chrysemys picta belli (western painted turtle)
Western painted turtle (chrysemys picta belli) on dirt
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Chrysemys Picta Belli
  • Other Names: Painted turtle
  • Adult Size: Between 4 and 10 inches
  • Lifespan: Between 30 and 50 years
  • Average Price Range: Between $20 and $50
  • Where To Buy: Tortoisetown.com
  • Recommended Books: Painted Turtle Pet Owners Guide by Ben Team

The Western Painted turtle is a Painted turtle subspecies that is native to New Mexico. Painted turtles often have dark shells with faint yellow stripe markings.

Western Painted turtles have darker plastrons than other subspecies, and have olive green shells. They inhabit marshes and ponds in central and north western areas of New Mexico.

Mainly an aquatic species, Painted turtles stay near the water and like to bask. Painted turtles are omnivorous and mainly eat small amphibians, mollusks, and invertebrates. They must swallow their food in the water.

There are also two species of turtles that are present in New Mexico, but are not native species.

These are the larger Common Snapping turtles and Red-eared Sliders. It is possible that these species were former pets that have been released from captivity.

Check out the Western painted turtle care sheet for more.

9. Common Snapping Turtle

Chelydra serpentina (Common Snapping Turtle)
Common Snapping Turtle on edge of path in woods
  • Experience Level: Intermediate to Expert
  • Family: Chelydridae
  • Scientific Name: Chelydra Serpentina
  • Other Names: Common Snapper, Eastern Snapping turtle, Snapper
  • Adult Size: Between 8 and 20 inches
  • Lifespan: Between 30 and 50 years
  • Average Price Range: Between $20 and $40
  • Where To Buy: tortoisetown.com
  • Recommended Books: Snapping Turtle Pet Owners Guide by Ben Team

Found in central and north eastern areas of New Mexico, Common Snappers are large, freshwater aquatic turtles.

They can be aggressive and will often hiss and bite. They do not bask often, preferring to remain in larger bodies of water.

Identified by their distinctive hooked “beaks”, Common Snappers usually have dark brown or green shells. They also have strong claws and long tails that sport saw-toothed ridges.

Common Snappers are nocturnal omnivores, mainly eating fish and other aquatic prey. They also consume underwater vegetation.

They are strong swimmers and will even catch small waterbirds if they can get close enough.

Learn more about the common snapping turtle here.

10. Red-eared Slider

Red Eared Slider Turtle on Grass
Red Eared Slider Turtle on Grass
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Trachemys Scripta Elegans
  • Other Names: Water Slider, Red-eared Terrapin
  • Adult Size: Between 6 and 8 inches
  • Lifespan: Between 20 and 40 years
  • Average Price Range: Between $15 and $50
  • Where to Buy: Tortoisetown.com
  • Recommended Books: Red Ear Slider Secrets

The Red-eared Slider is one of the most popular species of pet turtle on the market.

This semi-aquatic species is considered invasive to New Mexico and is found in north eastern and central areas.

These turtles like to bask at the water’s edge. Red-eared Sliders prefer shallow, slow-moving waters such as rivers.

Their omnivorous diet consists of small fish, aquatic invertebrates, and underwater vegetation.

Red Eared Sliders commonly have an olive green shell, with yellowish striped markings on their scales.

Their heads are usually a darker color, with yellow band markings and red patches just behind their eyes.

For more have a look at the red eared slider care guide.

Conclusion

We’ve looked at threatened species such as the Big Bend Slider as well as common turtles like the Ornate and Desert Box turtles.

This list has covered the 8 native and 2 non-native species of turtles in New Mexico.

We’ve also covered two non-native turtle species, the Common Snapping turtle and the Red-eared Slider.

These turtles may have been former captive specimens that were released into the wild.

If you’ve enjoyed this list and want to obtain one of these turtles for yourself, don’t hesitate to comment below!

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