Common Turtle Species Found on Golf Courses

Photo by Wes Anderson

Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)

This large species has a large shell and head, a long neck, and a long tail.  Shell color is generally brown or black, and the plastron is unhinged.  They are omnivorous and their diet includes vegetation, invertebrates, fish, reptiles, mammals, birds, and carrion.  Females nest on land and may travel long distances to find suitable nesting habitat.  This species is highly aquatic and has powerful swimming abilities.  Snapping turtles have strong jaws and are often harvested for meat. Photo by Wes Anderson.

Photo by Michael Dorcas

Eastern Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta)

This common and easily-identified species has a smooth, olive or black shell with red, yellow or orange markings.  Males have longer claws and tails, with indented plastrons (shell bottoms).  Females tend to be larger with more dome-shaped shells for higher egg-carrying capacity.  They are omnivorous, eating vegetation, invertebrates, and carrion.  Painted turtles bask to raise their body temperatures, and females must build their nests on land.  Mating occurs in the spring, with egg-laying occurring in late spring and early to mid-summer.  Hatchlings have been found to be freeze tolerant and may overwinter in the nest in colder areas. Photo by Michael Dorcas.

Photo by J.D. Willson

Yellowbelly Slider (Trachemys scripta)

Sliders have markings behind the eyes often resembling half-moons, have rounded lower jaws, and have yellow markings on the carapace (shell top) and usually yellow plastrons (shell bottom).  Males have longer claws and tails, with indented plastrons; females tend to be larger with more dome-shaped carapaces.  Adults are primarily herbivorous, while juveniles eat insects.  They have similar nesting habits to painted turtles.  The red-eared slider is a sub-species that is often introduced into ponds as unwanted pets. Photo by J.D. Willson.

Photo by J.D. Willson

River Cooter (Pseudemys concinna)

This species is generally found in riverine environments and can be difficult to distinguish from the yellowbelly slider.  It has a flattened and flared shell and a flat chin, and the plastron often has heavy dark markings with fewer markings on the head.  They eat aquatic vegetation and frequently bask. Photo by J.D. Willson.

Photo by J.D. Willson

Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina)

This is the only fully terrestrial turtle in North Carolina, and is characterized by a highly domed carapace that is usually colorful (brown with orange or yellow markings).  Males often have red eyes and a concave plastron with a flared carapace.  Females have brown eyes with more domed carapaces.  They are omnivorous and often become increasingly herbivorous with age.  They tend to live in forested areas and mature slowly, which can have conservation implications, especially as box turtles are particularly susceptible to roadway mortality. Photo by J.D. Willson.

Photo by Michael Dorcas

Eastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum)

This species tends to be small with a smooth, olive to brown shell and double-hinged plastron.  They are omnivorous and feed on invertebrates and seeds.  As semi-aquatic turtles, they do not swim as well as many other species and prefer shallow water.  They hibernate in upland forested habitat by burying themselves in debris. Photo by Michael Dorcas.

Photo by J.D. Willson

Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus)

Also known as stinkpots, musk turtles are small and dark with single-hinged plastrons.  Their plastrons do not cover their upper legs, unlike mud turtles.  Males have thicker tails with a sharp point on the end.  They are omnivorous and highly aquatic, but may bask and can even climb trees.  They may release a musk when captured, and overwinters in mud beneath shallow water. Photo by J.D. Willson.

Click here to access our full manual (Word 2007 .docx file) for golf course managers and urban planners in the southeastern United States.



Davidson College Herpetology Lab