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Turtles in Wyoming

Turtles in Wyoming

There are six types of turtles in Wyoming, four of them native with two being introduced by humans. Most of these are semi-aquatic turtles such as the Western Painted turtle, Eastern Spiny Softshell, and the Common Snapping turtle. The Ornate Box turtle is mainly terrestrial.

There are also two non-native species of turtles in Wyoming that may be considered invasive. These are the Red-eared Slider and the Alligator Snapping turtle. These may have been captive releases into the wild.

In this list we’ll take a look at each of these species, examining where they can be found in Wyoming as well as their appearance and diet. Here are the six species of turtles in Wyoming.

1) Ornate Box Turtle

Ornate box turtle in Wyoming
Ornate box turtle in Wyoming
  • Experience Level: Intermediate to Expert
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Terrapine Ornata
  • Other Names: Plains Box turtle, 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: CBReptile.com
  • Recommended Books: The Box Turtle Manual (Herpetocultural Library) by Tess Cook

Ornate Box turtles are a beautiful, colorful species. They have distinctive patterning on their domed shells, sporting a series of yellow to orange stripes.  They have recently faced declines in populations due to habitat loss and are a state-protected species.

Ornate Box turtles are found in the Goshen and Laramie counties of Wyoming, bordering Nebraska and Colorado. In these regions they mainly inhabit areas such as prairies and grasslands, drinking from nearby water sources.

Ornate Box turtles are diurnal omnivores, mainly eating mollusks, invertebrates, and sometimes carrion. They will also eat vegetation and are more active after rainfall.

2) Western Painted Turtle

Western painted turtle in Wyoming on log basking
Western painted turtle in Wyoming on log basking
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Chrysemys Picta Belli
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: Between 4 and 10 inches
  • Lifespan: Between 30 and 50 years
  • Average Price Range: Between $20 and $50
  • Where To Buy: CBReptile.com
  • Recommended Books: Painted Turtle Pet Owners Guide (Ben Team)

The largest Painted turtle subspecies, Western Painted turtles mainly inhabit low-lying eastern counties of Wyoming, near parts of the Missouri River. They are a popular species to keep as pets.

Painted turtles are aquatic and like to stay near the water. They will sometimes bask. Painted turtles are omnivores and mainly eat mollusks, amphibians, and aquatic insects. They need to swallow their food in the water.

Western Painted turtles have olive green shells, often edged in colors yellow or red, with yellow stripes on their faces. They can be separated from other Painted turtle subspecies by their darker plastrons.

3) Common Snapping Turtle

Common snapping turtle in Wyoming
Common snapping turtle in Wyoming
  • 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, CBReptile.com
  • Recommended Books: Snapping Turtle Pet Owners Guide (Ben Team)

A large, freshwater species, Common Snapping turtles can be found across much of Wyoming in larger, permanent bodies of water. The turtles can be aggressive if cornered on land, and will hiss and bite.

Common Snapping turtles can be identified by distinctive hooked beak-like mouths. They usually have dark brown or green ridged shells as well as strong claws and long tails with saw-toothed protrusions.

Common Snapping turtles are nocturnal omnivores, mainly eating amphibians and fish. They have even been known to eat waterfowl if they get close enough. They will sometimes consume vegetation.

4) Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle

Eastern Spiny softshell in Wyoming
Eastern Spiny softshell in Wyoming
  • 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: CBReptile.com
  • Recommended Books: Softshell Turtle Pet Owners Guide by Ben Team

A subspecies of the Spiny Softshell, Eastern Spiny Softshells are found at lower elevations in eastern and northern regions of Wyoming, mainly in areas surrounding the Bighorn river system. They are unfortunately classed as a vulnerable species.

Eastern Spiny Softshell turtles have a pancake-like shell with dark circles or rings. They have long, tapered beaks which they use as snorkels. Their have long necks and with a pair of stripes on their cheeks.

Eastern Spiny Softshells are fast swimmers. They are carnivores and will feed on crustaceans, invertebrates, and mollusks as well as occasionally eating aquatic vegetation.

Non-native turtles in Wyoming

There are two other species of turtles that can be found in Wyoming. However, these turtles are non-native specimens that may be considered invasive. These are the Red-eared Slider and the Alligator Snapping turtle.

Invasive non-native turtles usually originate as captive specimens or pets that have been unsafely released into the wild. They can potentially cause problems for native species, whom they compete with for territory and food and can potentially infect with diseases.

5) Red-eared Slider

Red eared slider in Wyoming
Red eared slider in Wyoming basking with group of turtles

One of the most popular species of pet turtle on the market, Red-eared Sliders often get released unsafely in non-native areas. They are seen as an invasive species in many states, including Wyoming.

Red-eared Sliders have olive green shells, with yellowish striped markings on their scutes. Their heads are usually a darker color, with yellow stripe markings and distinctive red patches just behind their eyes.

Red-eared Sliders inhabit slow-moving warm waters in rivers and lakes. They are omnivores, mainly consuming small fish, aquatic invertebrates, and underwater vegetation. They must swallow their food while in the water.

6) Alligator Snapping Turtle

Alligator snapping turtle in Wyoming
Alligator snapping turtle in Wyoming
  • Experience Level: Intermediate to Expert
  • Family: Chelydridae
  • Scientific Name: Macroclemys Temmincki
  • Other Names: Loggerhead Snapper, Alligator Snapper
  • Adult Size: Between 15 and 26 inches
  • Lifespan: Between 60 and 70 years

Alligator Snapping turtles are the world’s largest freshwater turtle species. They are instantly recognizable thanks to their thickly ridged shells and strong beaks. They are dark brown in color, with long tails.

These aggressive turtles are fully aquatic and live in deep waters in lakes and rivers. Specimens have been found near Pinedale in the Green River region of Wyoming.

Alligator Snapping turtles are will essentially eat any prey they can catch, including other turtle species. Their strong jaws are capable of crushing victims who are lured in by a movable growth in the Alligator Snapping turtle’s mouth.

Wrapping up

Throughout this list we’ve covered the six species of turtles in Wyoming. Four of these were native species such as the semi-aquatic Common Snapping turtle and the terrestrial Ornate Box turtle. Sadly, some of these native turtles are vulnerable in Wyoming.

We also covered two non-native, invasive turtle species which have been encountered in Wyoming. These were the Red-eared Slider and the Alligator Snapping turtle. These invasive specimens may cause issues for native turtles, competing for food and releasing disease.

Did you enjoy this list? If you want to discuss these turtles further or are looking to purchase one of these turtles as a pet, please don’t hesitate to comment below!

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