2015 Herp Year in Review - Testudines

Turtles have always been my weakest herp, but I've been getting better with them as of late.  It took me years to get good at Spotted Turtles, for instance.  But after finding a local spot, I've really pinned down the search image on them, which has helped me with everything.  In fact, I've now found everything within a few hours except for Bog Turtles.  That is a hole in my list that will be filled in 2016 as I plan on volunteering on some surveys with MACHAC (machac.org).  That's the future... let's get to what I found this past year.

Eastern Painted Turtle - There may be no more beautiful herp in the Northeast that is taken so highly for granted.  I'm as guilty as everyone.

Northern Map Turtle - I see these guys by the hundred in the Delaware River, but its always at a distance.  I have swam out to the middle to grab them before.  It's fun, but not the safest thing to do.  Fortunately, I found one on the bank this year.  He didn't want to pose for the camera though.

Florida Softshell Turtle - There are plenty of these in the lake by the resort we stayed in while vacationing in Disney World.  People must feed them as they all approached us whenever we'd stand still on the bridge.  

Spotted Turtle - Walking around in a swamp looking for these to materialize among the grass is probably the funnest thing I've done with turtle-searching.  It's certainly better than watching pond turtles slide in as you get within 100 feet.

Eastern Musk Turtle - Stinkpot, Muskie, Stinkin' Jim... call it what you will.  I had a hard time finding these for a while until a friend told me of a local population.  I now apply the same technique to other areas and these are an easy find on a Spring day.  Cute, in an ugly sorta way.

Northern Diamond-backed Terrapins - These brackish water turtles are constantly getting demolished on causeways heading to the coastline.  There have been huge efforts to help them, and many have been saved.  But they still need our help.  If you see a female coming onto a road as she looks for a suitable place to nest (as is the one in the photo), please help her across if you can do it safely.  

Eastern Mud Turtle - I often find these on roads in Southern NJ.  This was a great looking younger individual with a metallic green on the shell.  These guys are neat because they are one of our two Northeast turtles with a hinged plastron.

Eastern Box Turtle - Here's our other turtle with a hinged plastron.  These guys can close up completely.  This particular individual was a female probably heading back into the woods after laying some eggs at a popular park (see the powerwalker in the background).  Road mortality, loss of habitat, and poaching are really hurting their numbers.  Luckily, I moved her into the deep vegetation as even your average person can't seem to leave these in the wild.  Boxies are probably my favorite turtle as they are extremely variable.  I could do a whole blog entry on them alone... I actually might during the Winter.  :)

Red-Eared Slider - Our chief offender as far as invasive, introduced species.   These common pet store turtles often end up taking over any water source near high-population areas as they become too large or have lost their novelty.

Yellow-bellied Slider - I see a ton of these in North Carolina.  Rarely, they will pop up among the Red-eareds in local ponds.  I'd rather see them where they belong.

False Map Turtle - Certainly an introduced guy somewhere down in South Florida.  I had no idea what species this was when I found it.

Striped Mud Turtle - While roadcruising through South Florida, we came upon a turtle.  As I stopped to grab it off the road, police from the Native American reservation pulled up.  To make a long story short, I was asked to get on my way and wasn't able to obtain a photo of it.  So here is one from a wetland in coastal North Carolina in 2014.

Florida Box Turtle - Every morning I would cruise a road in the ENP hoping for Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes.  My efforts didn't pay off, but I did find three Florida Boxies in the early morning hours.

Florida Red-bellied Cooter - This guy was feeling the rays down in Southern Florida during our trip.

Northern Red-bellied Cooter - While checking out a new area, this female came out of the water to nest.  She seemed like an old soul, as she was melanistic.  The red on her plastron was looking sharp though.  I would have loved to have picked her up and taken a look at the entire ventral side, but figured I'd let her do her business.

Eastern Snapping Turtle - I see a lot of adults in wetlands, on roads, in the woods.  But this one was my favorite snapper of the year.  He didn't even know he was gonna be vicious yet.

Peninsula Cooter - The last cooter of my review was also found during our trip to Southern Florida.

Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle - We have a decent sized, introduced population in my home county.  I have seen them on rare occassions, sliding off of logs like big floppy trashcan lids.  A good friend clued me into where he was finding hatchlings.  Man, those little snorkel noses are cute!

Wood Turtle - A favorite among hobbyists, these guys are just too cool.  I was fortunate enough to find these in four different counties this year.  Unfortunately, these are one of the highest poached herps in the US.  They gain top dollar overseas.  Their future doesn't look great, but the recent crackdown on the black market animal trade is hopefully a good start.

That wraps up my turtles for the year.  Like I said, this time next year, I will be putting this together with one of my biggest nemesis-herps... the Bog Turtle!

...step into the outdoors.