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Wood Turtle

Wood Turtle
   Photo: John Mitchell / ROM

Features: Historically, the Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) was known as "old redleg" owing to the orange or brick-red colour of it legs. The Wood Turtle's aquatic habitat consists of clear rivers, streams or creeks with a moderate current and sandy or gravelly bottom. It spends proportionately more time on the banks of watercourses and in a variety of terrestrial or intermediate habitats than other native Ontario turtles. Although it uses wooded areas, it prefers more open habitats such as wet meadows, swamps and fields. Wood Turtles overwinter on stream bottoms.

Status: Endangered Provincially

Range: The Wood Turtle has a discontinuous distribution extending from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick south to Virginia, and west through southern Quebec and Ontario to Minnesota and northeastern Iowa. In Ontario, Wood Turtle populations have been found in three separate regions of the province. Studies are underway to determine more accurately the size and extent of these populations and threats to them.

Threats: Ontario populations are at risk from the same factors that are operating throughout much of the species' range: predation by raccoons, skunks, foxes and stray pets; habitat loss and degradation; human activity; collection for personal pets or for the pet trade; and road mortality. In some areas, collection for biological supply purposes may also be a problem. This turtle's low reproductive success rate increases its vulnerability to all of these threats.

Protection: The Wood Turtle is protected under Ontario's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. A recovery plan, sponsored by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, is in preparation. Parts of the recovery plan which call for surveys are already being implemented. The species is protected in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which controls international trade in listed species. The Wood Turtle receives varying levels of protection in most states in its United States range and is considered "threatened" in Minnesota, Wisconsin and New Jersey.

For more information on what you can do to help this species, view the fact sheet on the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources Species at Risk Website.

Text Sources: Lizgus and Brooks 1996

Last Modified Date: July 2010

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