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Spotted Turtle

Scientific name: Clemmys guttata

The “polka-dot” turtle has yellow spots, not just on its shell, but on its head, neck and legs. The background of the upper shell, or carapace, is black. It is interesting to note that the number and arrangement of these spots will vary with age. Unlike a leopard, it will change its spots!

This turtle is not very active and is hard to spot as it may be hanging out under leaf litter, in wetlands or at the bottom of ponds and marshes.

This is a small turtle, only reaching 5 inches in length, with a very gentle disposition.

It is considered a species of special concern, by New York State.

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Snails, worms, spiders, frogs and plants make up the diet of the spotted turtle.


Wetlands, wet meadows, shallow streams , beaver ponds and the like are common habitats of the painted turtle. The painted turtle doesn’t like the heat and will try and find cool water when temperatures rise.

Life Cycle

After emerging from hibernation in early spring, the males are in active pursuit of females. In fact, several males may be seen simultaneously chasing one female. Typically sexual maturity does not occur until the turtle is 8-10 years old. After breeding, the female goes in search of a nesting area. Unfortunately, they may be hit by cars as they are crossing road at this time. They will choose an open site such as a field, meadow, or even the edge of a road. She only lays 3-4 eggs. Afterwards, she carefully covers the nest and  then, unlike other turtles, tries to camouflage it. In three months the hatchlings emerge and head for wet, grassy areas in search of food and shelter.

Lifespan is about 25 years, but can be up to 50 in the best situations.


Ecosystem Connections

Turtle eggs are eaten by other animals such as skunks and raccoons.

Human Connections

Loss of habitat has been largely responsible for the major decline of the spotted turtle throughout New York. In the early 1900s, it was reported to be the most common turtle in the vicinity of New York City. This turtle is sensitive to pollution and toxicants and disappears rapidly with declining water quality. To further stress the species, pet collecting is currently responsible for the annual loss of significant numbers of turtles.

How You Can Help

Please never take turtles from the wild!

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