Unless you live in a relatively small area of the world, you may have never heard of wood turtles. But did you know that these highly intelligent reptiles used to cover a much larger range than they do now? So, where do wood turtles live these days? What is their habitat? And how long is their average lifespan? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions.
What You'll Learn Today
Where Do Wood Turtles Live?
Wood turtles are found in 17 U.S. states, primarily in the New England region. They can be found as far south as Virginia and as far west as Minnesota.
They also live around the Great Lakes area, on both sides of the border.
Wood turtles can be found in parts of Canada as well as the U.S. They are native to southern and eastern parts of the state, from Nova Scotia westward to southern regions of Ontario.
Wood turtles used to have a much larger range that covered much of the eastern U.S., but their numbers have greatly decreased over the last century. Young turtles are often killed by predators, and it takes them a long time to reach sexual maturity, so they have a hard time maintaining their numbers in an increasingly hostile environment.
What’s more, they are often killed by habitat loss, hit by cars while attempting to cross the street, or taken and sold illegally as pets on the black market.
For all of these reasons, they now have a much smaller range than they used to. And, even within the areas where they are still found, they are seen only rarely.
What is a Wood Turtle’s Habitat?
Part of the reason for the wood turtles’ declining numbers is their specific habitat needs.
Wood turtles are neither fully aquatic or fully terrestrial–they need both land and water in their environment.
Their favorite type of habitat appears to be riparian regions, or wooded areas near streams and rivers. They will forage for food on land in forests, woodlands, hay fields, meadows, and other terrestrial areas near sources of water.
They prefer to live near slow- to moderately-flowing bodies of water. They rarely travel too far from the water but may travel great distances along its bank in search of food, mates, or nesting sites.
From spring through fall, wood turtles live mostly out of the water, foraging for food on land and searching for appropriate spots to build their nests. They also spend a lot of time basking in the sun on logs or riverbanks.
When the weather begins growing cold, they go underwater or into burrows on the bank to hibernate. They often remain underwater for the entire winter, taking in oxygen from the water in much the same way as fish do.
They become more active as the weather begins to warm up again, and finally they will emerge from the water to begin looking for food, beginning the yearly cycle over again.
Check out this video to learn more about wood turtle hibernation habits:
How Long Do Wood Turtles Live?
Turtles are known for having long lives, and though wood turtles don’t live as long as some of their fully-aquatic cousins, they live longer than you might expect.
Wood turtles don’t grow very large–on average, they are only 5 to 9 inches long at adulthood. Yet, some of these small turtles can live nearly as long as some humans.
Their average lifespan in the wild is at least 40 years. That said, many have been known to live 60 years or more.
Those in captivity generally live the longest, particularly those that are well cared for and have all their needs met. But even those in the wild may live for decades.
Very few baby wood turtles make it to adulthood. Often, they are eaten by predators while still in the egg stage.
Those that do hatch face years of threats from a variety of predators, from foxes to raccoons to skunks. Many of these young turtles are eaten before reaching sexual maturity.
Some wood turtles are able to begin reproducing around the age of 12, while others are much older–as old as 20 years. Males typically reach sexual maturity earlier than females, and their development can also depend on environmental conditions.
Wood turtles live in northeastern parts of the United States and southeastern regions of Canada. They live primarily in riparian environments containing both aquatic and terrestrial habitats such as woodlands, meadows, and forests near streams and rivers.