Turtles of the Northeast

(MA, ME, NH, CT, RI, NY)

Anatomy of a turtle

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Carapace: The upper part of a turtle shell

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Plastron: The lower part of a turtle shell

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Scute: The individual segments that make up the carapace and plastron

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Keel: A center-line ridge which may appear on the carapace or tail

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Aquatic: A turtle which lives primarily in water, often only coming on land to bask or nest

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Terrestrial: A turtle that primarily lives on land, which only goes in the water to drink or soak

Common Snapping Turtle

Identifying Features:

  • Long tail with standing keels
  • Large body size
  • Prehistoric appearance
  • Remarkably long neck
  • Reduced plastron; unable to pull legs into shell

Conservation Status: Common

Eastern Painted Turtle

Identifying Features:

  • Smooth, dark shell with yellow or red borders along the seams
  • Black skin with yellow and red stripes
  • Yellow spot behind eye on each side of head
  • Yellow eye with a dark bar to the pupil

Conservation Status: Common

Common Musk Turtle (Stinkpot)

Identifying Features:

  • Smooth, domed shell
  • Two yellow stripes that run nose to neck
  • Singular front plastron hinge
  • Primarily nocturnal

Conservation Status: Thought to be common

Spotted Turtle

Identifying Features:

  • Yellow spotted pattern
  • Older turtles may lose their spots
  • Small size (>6 inches)
  • Commonly confused with the Bog Turtle
  • Found near vernal pools

Conservation Status: Protected

Wood Turtle

Identifying Features:

  • Carapace usually has pyrimidal structuring
  • Underside of legs and neck have orange coloration
  • In late summer, often found in hay fields
  • Semi-aquatic

Conservation Status: Species of special concern

Eastern Box Turtle

Identifying Features:

  • Highly domed carapce
  • Dark colored shells with orange to yellow patterning (color varies widely)
  • Males have red eyes, while females have yellow and brown eyes
  • Hinged plastron
  • Can retract completely into the shell
  • Fully terrestrial
  • Found in forests and fields

Conservation Status: Species of special concern

Blanding's Turtle

Identifying Features:

  • Bright yellow chin and neck
  • Large, high domed, oval shaped shell
  • Subtle yellow speckling on carapace
  • Singular plastron hinge at the front

Conservation Status: Threatened

Diamondback Terrapin

Identifying Features:

  • Light tan carapace with concentric ring pattern on scutes
  • Light colored skin with blue speckled patterning
  • Found in salt marshes near oceans

Conservation Status: Threatened

Northern Map Turtle

Identifying Features:

  • Carapace is olive-green to brown with reticulated yellow lines
  • Color fades with age
  • Skin has yellow stripes
  • Dramatic center-line keel in males

Conservation Status: Threatened

Spiny Softshell Turtle

Identifying Features:

  • Flat, round, leathery shell
  • Front edge of carapace has small spines
  • Tubular snout with large nostrils
  • Olive to yellow-brown with black, eye-like spots on carapace

Conservation Status: Threatened

Eastern Mud Turtle

Identifying Features:

  • Smooth, dark carapace without patterning
  • Yellow or brown plastron with two hinges

Conservation Status: Endangered

Bog Turtle

Identifying Features:

  • Bright yellow-orange blotch on each side of head
  • Light brown to black shell

Conservation Status: Endangered

Northern Red-bellied Cooter

Identifying Features:

  • Red plastron
  • Carapace is dark with faint reddish markings
  • NO red or yellow spot on side of head

Conservation Status: Endangered

Red-eared Slider

Identifying Features:

  • Distinct red spot behind each eye
  • Carapace with dark stripes or bars

Conservation Status: Invasive