Jun 24 2013

Perhaps The Only One I’ll Ever See

Published by at 7:00 am under Insects, Fish, Frogs

Wood turtle in the wild, 23 June 2013 (photo by Kate St. John)

It was hot on Sunday when I decided to hike in Butler County and I wanted to travel light.  I debated taking the camera because I can only photograph close, stationary objects (plants) and it would be a burden but I carried it anyway.  I'm glad I did.

It was a big day for turtles.  I drove down a dirt road and twice had to swerve around large snapping turtles.  (Have you ever noticed they have tails like stegosauruses?)

During my hike I found this 8-inch turtle eating a leaf.  I didn't know what it was so I took its picture and emailed Chuck Tague.  His answer:  Wood Turtle.  Good find.

A wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) is a very good find.  It's native from Pennsylvania to Nova Scotia and west to Wisconsin but it's endangered due to habitat loss (suburban development, agriculture, logging) and collecting for the illegal pet trade.  Wood turtles are omnivorous on land and water, have homing instincts and can live 40 years.  In good habitat they live in colonies where they develop social hierarchies.  Sadly they are scarcer every year.

Since I don't search for turtles and this species is declining rapidly, it's likely this is the only wood turtle I'll ever see.

I'm glad I took his picture.

(photo by Kate St. John)

12 responses so far

12 Responses to “Perhaps The Only One I’ll Ever See”

  1. Beth Lon 24 Jun 2013 at 10:54 am

    Every good hike needs a wildlife sighting. Great that you had a unique one!

  2. mary grumlingon 24 Jun 2013 at 11:06 am

    i came across one last year at frankfort springs

  3. Katydidon 24 Jun 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Are you sure? That looks like a box turtle.

  4. Kate St. Johnon 24 Jun 2013 at 3:27 pm

    Katydid, as I said, I didn’t know which turtle it was but I trust Chuck Tague’s assessment. (He didn’t see it himself, just saw my photo.)

  5. Rob Protzon 24 Jun 2013 at 3:59 pm

    Good references:



    Both say the defining characteristic being the pyramidal pattern on its carapace, the upper shell.

  6. Kate St. Johnon 24 Jun 2013 at 5:06 pm

    Thanks, Rob. The second link that shows the top shell is exactly what I saw. In my photo the turtle has a very textured shell. I’m not sure if it matters that he has red legs… but he does.

  7. Ed Richardson 24 Jun 2013 at 7:57 pm

    Definitely a Wood Turtle. That is a great find!! I remember reading an interesting report by Penn State I believe years ago about the decline of the Box Turtle and Wood Turtle in Pennsylvania.

    I have only found two in my life. One in Yellow Creek State Park and one here in Beaver County in a patch of woods I often roam.

    Thanks for sharing,

  8. Judyon 24 Jun 2013 at 9:16 pm

    What a surprise to see a turtle on this site ! I had my husband read about it too. He is a very big turtle fan, has many books about them and a large collection of turtle figurines. Coincidentally, in the Post Gazette yesterday, there was a paragraph about Bog Turtles which are also endangered. Thank you for the note and photo.

  9. Dustin Welchon 25 Jun 2013 at 1:06 pm

    I would love to see a documentary about a Wood Turtle colony. I wonder if a colony of Wood Turtles is even on film anywhere.

  10. Judyon 25 Jun 2013 at 2:22 pm

    Youtube has a mini documentary (about 2 minutes) about wood turtles with some very good close ups of the turtle. Look up wood turtle documentary and you will find it.

  11. Katydidon 01 Jul 2013 at 2:22 pm

    I commented on 6/24, thinking your photo was a box turtle. I guess it was a bit different from the wood turtle I had seen about 20 years ago. The shell on that one was bright with very, very distinct rings. It was crossing County Line Road close to the main entrance of Seven Springs. We stopped the car and made sure it was off the road before we continued on.

    I saw a box turtle two days ago and it helped me realize the difference. Sorry about that.

  12. Kate St. Johnon 01 Jul 2013 at 3:17 pm

    Good find, Katydid.

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