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Wood turtle

Tortue des bois

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Wood turtle

Family: Emydidae
Length of carapace: up to 24 cm
Weight: 900 g
Lifespan: 46 years in natural habitat, 58 years in captivity

  • Brownish carapace
  • Black head and orange-coloured neck
  • Upper side of legs black and under side orange
  • Yellow plastron (breastplate) with black markings
  • Plastron concave in males and flat in females
  • Feet have claws and are slightly webbed

The wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta or Clemmys insculpta) is a member of the greater Emydidae family, which includes 85 species. This freshwater turtle lives more on land than in the water. In Canada, its range extends from southern Ontario, through Quebec and into New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Summer at the water’s edge

Tortue des bois

In spring, the wood turtle prefers to stay among the alders and grasses at the water’s edge. During the summer, it leaves to explore various habitats, such as a field, a forest, farmlands or a gravel pit near a river or brook. It has a distinct preference for meandering waterways with sandy or fine gravel bottoms.

Winter on the river bottom

In October, the wood turtle takes shelter on the river bottom for the winter. Hibernation lasts six months, and the turtle survives thanks to a slowed metabolism and an ability to absorb oxygen from the water through its skin. In April, it returns to the surface to bask in the sun and becomes increasingly active as summer approaches.

Duelling males

Male wood turtles defend their territories with duels. Each one bites its rival on the head and legs until one of them gives in. The male’s territory often straddles those of several females. On average, a territory encompasses 20 to 30 ha.

Sun and sand

Tortue des bois

Females reach sexual maturity only around the age of 15 years. Mating occurs in spring or fall, when the male and female meet in shallow waters. In June, the female chooses a sandy site exposed to the sun and less than 500 m from water. Here, she digs a nest and lays about 10 eggs. The sun’s heat on the sand incubates the eggs for about 60 days.

Everyone in the water!

Baby turtles hatch at the end of summer. Varying between 2.8 and 3.8 cm in length, their tails are nearly as long as their shells. From the moment they hatch, the neonates rush toward the nearest waterway. Barely one turtle in a hundred will survive to adulthood.

Carnivorous when young

The wood turtle feeds on a variety of foods. Its diet includes leaves, fruit and mushrooms. Earthworms, insects, snails and tadpoles also appear on its menu. The carnivorous tendency of young turtles decreases as they mature, and in adulthood, the wood turtle is more omnivorous.

Beware of raccoon!

Species such as skunks, foxes and crows feed on turtle eggs and young turtles, but one of the wood turtle’s worst enemies is the raccoon. Capable of inserting its snout into the carapace, it often manages to bite off and eat the legs and tails of adult turtles. As a result, wood turtles with one or more missing limbs are not a rare sight.

A species in decline

Tortue des bois

In recent decades, this species has become considerably more uncommon throughout eastern Canada. The causes are linked to increased human activity, which contributes to the deterioration and destruction of habitats. Other factors, such as predation and illegal capture for pets, also threaten the species.

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la tortue des bois

Par mdrlol, 2014-02-27, 12h31

c`est formidable ce blog!!!

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