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Wood Turtle

Wood Turtle - Information on The Facts, Habitat, Diet and Lifespan of Wood Turtles

Wood turtles are regarded as one of the more alert turtle species.

Scientifically termed Glyptemys insculpta, the wood turtle is also known as ‘old red leg’, a name acquired due to its orange/brick-red colored legs.

Wood Turtle: About

A medium-sized turtle, the wood turtle is about five to six inches in length. It’s most obvious feature, which is also the reason for its name, is its shell. A wood turtle’s carapace (the upper portion of the shell) is sculptured and looks woody. Underneath the shell are orange or reddish legs.

While its neck is also orange, wood turtles have a black or speckled head. The lower shell or plastron is normally yellow in color. Wood turtle males have longer front claws, a thicker tail, and a broader head than the females.

Wood Turtle: Facts

Here are some interesting facts about wood turtles

• Wood turtles live both in water and on land.

• They often stomp their legs in an effort vibrate the ground. This action drives the worms to the surface, where they are eaten by the turtles.

• Wood turtles love to eat all kinds of berries, and will travel distances to get to them.

• Wood turtles are also called ‘mud turtles’ because they spend a lot of time basking in the sun in muddy patches around streams and rivers.

• Unfortunately, in 1996, wood turtles were listed as “vulnerable” in the official list prepared by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Wood Turtle: Habitat

Primarily found in some states along the eastern coast in the US and in Ontario, Nova Scotia, Québec, and New Brunswick in Canada, wood turtles like to live near streams, creeks, and clear rivers. They prefer water bodies that have a gravelly or sandy bottom, and since they spend a lot of time outside the water, they are often found near swamps and wet meadows.

Wood Turtle: Diet

Wood turtles are omnivores, and as mentioned earlier, they love to all kinds of worms and berries (such as raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries). In fact, they are known to eat a wide variety of animals and plants. In the wild, wood turtles are known to eat earthworms, slugs, leeches, snails, insects, insect larvae, frogs, tadpoles, and even baby mice.

Some turtles also eat eggs and babies of certain bird species that nest near muddy river banks. While wood turtles actually prefer animal matter over plants, they do eat quite a variety of plants, leaves, and fruits. Apart from certain types of grasses, wood turtles will eat the leaves of willows, birches, alders, and even strawberry and cranberry leaves. They even enjoy flowers such as dandelions and violets. Wood turtles also eat mosses and fungi; and have been known to consume a wide variety of mushrooms.

Domesticated wood turtles can be given fruits such as bananas, apples, cherries, berries, grapes, watermelons, and cantaloupes; vegetables such as spinach, corn, and boiled carrots; and meat such as wet kitten food, canned dog food, live crickets, eggs (boiled), minnows, chicken heart,  liver, and earthworms.

Wood Turtle: Lifespan

While it was once believed that these turtles lived only about 28 to 33 years, their lifespan is now considered to be about 46 years. The oldest Wood Turtle lived for 58 years; it was a captive specimen. Typically, female wood turtles swim upstream in summer and lay about eight to ten eggs. Their nests are ditches in the gravel on river banks. Baby wood turtles are actually gray in color and look nothing like the adults. Their tails are normally as long as their shells and they only acquire the orange/red coloring as they age.


K. Buhlmann, T. Tuberville, and J. W. Gibbons. Turtles of the Southeast, University of Georgia Press, 2008.

  Submitted on May 9, 2012