Austin Area Turtles
COMMON SNAPPING TURTLE, Chelydra serpentina
This turtle has a range covering the Eastern USA. They get up to 18" shell length and can weigh as
much as 45 lbs. They are more aggressive than the Alligator Snapper and have a much longer reach.
CHICKEN TURTLE, Deirochelys reticularia
Chicken turtles are found in quiet, heavily vegetated ditches and ponds where they like
to bask. These turtles will travel long distances on land to reach a new water source.
During the trip, they may burrow into dirt or leaf litter to stay moist. Chicken
Turtles are small (5 - 7 inch), have a very long neck and a narrow head. They do not have
a yellow blotch or red stripe on the head. They feed on worms, crustaceans, and insects.
MISSISSIPPI MAP TURTLE, Graptemys versa
Mississippi Map Turtles inhabit a wide range of rivers, heavily vegetated lakes, large ponds,
and streams. Females can reach a length of 10 inches while the males are half this size. They
have a black keel on their back and a yellow crescent shaped blotch behind the eye. This is a
strong swimmer who likes to bask but will quickly dive into the water when approached. They
feed on mollusks, insects, carrion and vegetation.
TEXAS MAP TURTLE, Graptemys versa
Texas Map Turtles are only found in the Colorado River drainage on the Edwards Plateau.
This is a smaller map turtle with females only attaining a length of 7 1/2 inches. The
keel on this map turtle is not black and there is a J-shaped head marking. They feed on
mollusks, insects, carrion, and vegetation.
TEXAS RIVER COOTER, Pseudemys texana
This basking turtle can be found in slow-moving rivers and permanent bodies of water.
Females can grow to be 16 inches in length with the males attaining 9 inches. The rear
edge of the top shell is serrated. They do not have a keel and do not have a red stripe
on the head. Texas River Cooters are shy and quickly dive into the water when disturbed.
RED-EARED SLIDER, Trachemys scripta elegans
Red-eared Sliders range across all of Texas except for the far-western region. They
are easily identified by the red stripe found just behind the eye. Females can grow
to be over 1 foot in length but males are smaller. These turtles are aquatic and feed
mostly on plants as adults. While they very seldom venture out on land, they can
frequently be seen basking on logs in the sunshine.
THREE-TOED BOX TURTLE, Terrapene carolina
These terrestrial turtles are found in open woodland, marshes and other damp areas where they commonly burrow. They can be found soaking in shallow water but are not good swimmers and will become distressed if forced into deeper water. Males are larger growing to 6 1/4 inches in length. Females grow to 4 - 5 inches. These high-domed turtles have a hinge on the underside of their shell that allows them to "close" their shell. While the shell is generally brown, the face and forelimbs may be yellow to orange to red. These land turtles feed on insects and carrion becoming more vegetarian as they age.
ORNATE BOX TURTLE, Terrapene ornata ornata
Ornate Box Turtles are found in semi-arid and arid grasslands and open brush where they often burrow. Adults rarely exceed 5 inches in length. These turtles are very similar to the Three-toed Box turtles in appearance. The distinguishing character on the Ornate Box Turtles are 5 - 9 yellow radiating lines on the main scutes on the top of the shell.
EASTERN MUD TURTLE, Kinosternon subrubrum
Eastern Mud Turtles are found throughout Texas but are somewhat rare in the eastern-third of the state. These are aquatic turtles which like to bask but also routinely leave the water and travel great distances to reach other water sources and can be found burrowed below ground debris along the way. Water sources include ponds, lakes, ditches, and marshes. Reaching a size of 4 to 6 inches, it is named for the yellow colored areas found on its throat, head and on the sides of its neck. They have small barbels on the chin and underside of neck. They feed on tadpoles, worms, crustaceans and insects.
MISSISSIPPI MUD TURTLE, Kinosternon subrubrum hippocrepis
Mississippi Mud Turtles are found in permanent bodies of water but also travel far distances. These turtles seldom exceed 4 inches in length with the males being larger than the females. Mississippi Mud Turtles can be distinguished from the other mud and musk turtles by the facial stripes and larger shell on the underside. They feed on tadpoles, worms, crustaceans, and insects.
COMMON MUSK TURTLE (STINKPOT), Sternotherus odoratus
Common Musk Turtles can be found in any still or slow moving water source. These are small turtles, which seldom exceed 4 1/5 inches in length. A common Musk can be distinguished by the facial stripes and a very narrow shell on the underside. They feed on tadpoles, worms, crustaceans, and insects.
RAZORBACK MUSK TURTLE, Sternotherus carinatus
Razorback Musks are found in slow-moving rivers and streams and associated swamps or marshes where they can be found basking. Adults grow to be from 5 to 6 inches in length. A high sharply keeled shell defines these turtles. They feed on tadpoles, worms, crustaceans, and insects.
MIDLAND SMOOTH SOFTSHELL TURTLE, Apalone mutica
Midland Smooth Softshells are found in moderately fast moving rivers with abundant sandbars where they often bury themselves with just their snout and eyes above the surface of the water. These are the smallest of the softshell turtles in Texas. Females can grow to be over 12 inches in length while males are between 4 to 6 inches. Midland Smooth Softshells do not have a hard shell but they are covered with a thick smooth skin. They are capable of swimming after and catching fish. These are shy turtles, which will quickly disappear if disturbed. If handled, these turtles will scratch and bite.
TEXAS SPINY SOFTSHELL TURTLES, Apalone spinifera guadalupensis and pallidus
Texas Spiny Softshell Turtles are primarily found in rivers but they can also be found in lakes and ponds. Females can occasionally grow to be 16 inches in length. The males are half the size of the females. These softshells are covered with a sandpaper-like skin and have anterior spines. They are capable of swimming after and catching fish. These are shy turtles, which will quickly disappear if disturbed. If handled, these turtles will scratch and bite.
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