Photo by Steve Krichbaum
At a Glance
Wood turtles are the all-terrain-vehicles of the turtle world, sometimes even climbing into bushes to eat berries. They are known to stomp on the ground to draw earthworms to the surface to eat.
Range: Northern Virginia and West Virginia, up through the Northeast and upper Midwest
Habitat Type: Variety of aquatic and terrestrial habitats
Primary Diet:Omnivorous – including flowers, mushrooms, fruits, leaves and invertebrates
Estimated Population: Currently unknown
States with Current Habitat
The state statuses for the Wood Turtle ranges from “apparently secure” in a few parts of its range, to rare and endangered in most other parts. However, the intense development of its native range has fragmented populations and shrunken available habitat, which affects both the current population and limits their ability to repopulate areas. In addition, global warming threatens to alter their aquatic and terrestrial habitats.
Why Protection is Needed
Wood Turtles face a variety of threats, including loss and fragmentation of habitat, global warming, roads, collection for pets and logging, which alters habitat and increases the number of predators that thrive on forest edges. High populations of predators such as Raccoons devastate Turtle populations.
The Turtles need cool, clean water to survive; accumulations of large woody debris are a vital component of this habitat. When temperatures are low, they spend most of their time in the water and hibernate in deep pools or under submerged logs. In warmer months, they become much more terrestrial and are found in upland habitats.
Development is perhaps the most pervasive present threat to the Wood Turtle. A great deal of historic habitat has been converted to other land uses and increasing urbanization of forest areas continues to be a problem. The Wood Turtle is native to what is now some of the most densely populated areas of our country. As we continue to expand out from urban areas, it further fragments and reduces Turtle habitat.
Global warming is a growing threat as well. As a cold-adapted species that relies on streams for winter survival and hibernation, Wood Turtles are threatened by the possibility of warmer temperatures and decreased precipitation. Given the fragmentation in their habitat, many Turtles may not be able to avoid the changing climate by moving northward.
With pressures on the species mounting, sites on relatively undeveloped public lands grow increasingly crucial as refugia for the Turtle. Preserving Wood Turtle populations and habitat in our National Forests and other public lands appears critical for ensuring their long-term survival.