Wonderful Wood Turtles

Wood turtles (Glyptemys insculpta) are a freshwater turtle species you might find in northeastern New York, but they have some unique characteristics. Wood turtles are found along the east coast of North America, from Nova Scotia in Canada to Virginia in the United States, and as far west as Minnesota, in and around flowing water in forests and woods.

wood turtle resting on top of a half log in a plastic tub

Our overwintering wood turtle patient likes to sun herself on top of her log hide for part of the day.

The wood turtle’s carapace, or upper shell, is rough with ridges in pyramid shapes. The ridges resemble tree rings, and the carapace is usually a dark mahogany color. The wood turtle’s neck and legs are splashed with orange, which creates a striking appearance.

Wood turtles are omnivorous and are the only freshwater turtle in the Adirondacks that can eat out of water. They eat beetles and other insects, slugs, and worms, and dine on some mushrooms, mosses, and grasses. They may also pick at carrion.

In New York, wood turtle numbers are declining, and they are considered a species of special concern. We do see some wood turtles in our wildlife rehabilitation program. We are currently overwintering a wood turtle who was hit by a car late last summer. We treated her for both a shell fracture and eye injuries. Because of they are more terrestrial and have different dietary requirements, we had to house the wood turtle differently than our fully aquatic patients.

We share information about wood turtles and the other turtles of northeastern New York in our educational outreach programs. We are looking for additional schools, libraries, clubs, and nature centers to host our programs. If you can recommend a place, please contact us.