The Wood Turtle can be found in the Northeast and Great Lakes regions of the United States and parts of southeastern Canada. There, this turtle stands out from the pack with bright orange, pink, red, or yellow skin and well-defined shell scutes, as though they were carved from wood. It inhabits water-rich areas like riparian woodlands, moist meadows, vegetated floodplains, and cool, clear-to-relatively clear streams, creeks, and rivers.
For much of the year they are obligated to an aquatic lifestyle where they breed and brumate (reptilian hibernation). During the other, they move between terrestrial habitats, sometimes many kilometers per year. During summer heat spells or drought, this turtle often returns to the water and its immediate surroundings.
Once an abundant turtle, habitat fragmentation, alteration, and destruction, road and railroad mortality, increased predator populations, collection for the pet trade, and climate change, among other threats, have severely depleted, if not altogether extirpated, populations. Due to this, the North American Wood Turtle is regarded by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as Endangered, and is now protected in every United States state and Canadian province in which they naturally occur, ranging in conservation status from a Species of Special Concern to Endangered.
The Wood Turtle is a key species in the AZA SAFE: American Turtle Program, which addresses the threat of illegal trade by assisting federal and state wildlife agency law enforcement officers in protecting native turtles and in developing procedures to return confiscated turtles to the wild.
Learn more about how you can help this species and others at the link in our bio!
Pictured: North American Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) IUCN Red List Status: Endangered
📸: Jordan Gray
Header image by Miranda McCleaf.
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