Rarity Redux

Well look who I ran into a while back –

My friend the wood turtle. On the same river and the same log as in my first post with one of these beauties. From my reading, wood turtles don’t roam very far at all, unlike Blanding’s turtles that do. Which leads me to wonder, is this the same turtle? It’s the same size. It’s in the exact same spot. But there is some debate on the average size of a wood turtle territory and it may depend on the quality of food sources. Makes you wonder.

As I approached, I noticed one, much smaller turtle on the log, but he’s further up. As I got closer this beauty emerged from the water and climbed up too. At first I thought it was another painted turtle, but then when I got closer I knew it wasn’t. This time I positioned the kayak on the other side of her and the log in a sharp bend where the current is very slow. And I got closer than the first time.

I decided to get closer because while I was just getting settled in, I heard a motor and voices. Pretty soon a pontoon boat came put-putting into view, very close to the log. On board a woman had a camera with a very long lens and was taking photos of the turtles. We said hi and I told her the big one was a rare Wood turtle and she was so happy to have seen it. I said she just came out of the water a few minutes ago and seemed pretty chill about the big boat. A few minutes later they had turned and came back by again and still, the turtle didn’t even blink. That’s what made me feel ok about getting a little closer and I think these pictures are better than the first one.

Plus, check out that plastron!

Such vivid orange and the scales on the legs are impressive.

Here’s a kind of contrasty shot of her neighbor – a painted turtle which you can see is more aquatic than terrestrial. Aquatic turtles tend to be longer than they are tall, have smoother scales and shells for better streamlining, longer claws for purchase on slippery things, and webbed feet. Terrestrial turtles have shorter claws and rougher scales and shells. Taller shells, too. The wood turtle, with two feet in the water and two on the land, has a blend of these traits. Box turtles in comparison have much taller carapaces. All can retract into their shells fully, something a sea turtle can’t do.

Anyway…that’s my turtle-y encounter. I wonder if I shall see her again.



3 thoughts on “Rarity Redux

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  1. That’s an exciting discovery since wood turtles don’t even reach the age of maturity until between 14 & 20 years old. It’s kind of hard to tell from the photos, but the shadows make it look like the plastron might be a bit concaved, which would indicate a male. (Perhaps you got a better look in person.) If so, I’ve read this about NH wood turtles (and maybe ones in your area are different): “Male Wood Turtles in Massachusetts and New Hampshire have been documented having stream ranges up to 3.9 mi. Distance Traveled Away from the River. —While turtles have been documented traveling >0.5 mi from streams, the vast majority of movements occur within 100 ft, with a high-activity zone of 300 ft from streams.” (From https://www.northeastturtles.org/uploads/3/0/4/3/30433006/glin_booklet_9618.pdf) I don’t know if you got a closeup view of the scutes in order to be able to count the rings, which can indicate the turtle’s age. According to https://loudounwildlife.org/2006/04/wood-turtle/, it can get harder to do an accurate count on older turtles. I had always assumed the Wood Turtle was so named because I’ve seen them in the woods here, but that page has a different reason. It would be fun to keep returning to this site and see if you keep seeing it. (I wonder if biologists mark individual turtles to track them.) Here, our resident turtle expert/researcher/professor has put tracking devices on some and learned a lot. He was also the first to record “the voice of the turtle”.

    1. OMG Pat, I’m so sorry for spacing out on a reply. The range data on NH turtles v. WI specimens is so different. Our DNR has them as low mileage travelers. So interesting. Am off to check out your links. Oh and I just ordered a new book about Wisconsin herps – it’s a massive 1100 pages or so and it should be a great addition to my nature and field guide collection.

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