Authored by Cody Bliss

With approximately 89 species and subspecies of turtles, the United States is awarded the title of having the greatest species richness of turtles in the entire world!

Woah, that’s a lot of responsibility, especially when you consider the fact that turtles are currently the single most endangered group of vertebrates in the world! Unfortunately, turtles in the United States are not immune to this dismal statistic. Like in many parts of the world, turtles here in the U.S. are threatened by road mortalities, habitat fragmentation, pet trade, subsidized predation, and a changing climate to name just a few. With so many different types of turtles facing so many different types of threats, it may be hard to determine where to start.

Let’s start with five.

1. Blanding’s Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii)

Blanding's Turtle

IUCN Redlist: Endangered

Blanding’s Turtles are highly mobile and move extensively between wetlands, while nesting often occurs well away from the water in open grasslands. This increased mobility and varied habitat use make this turtle even more susceptible to certain threats such as road mortality.

2. Spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata)

Spotted Turtle

IUCN Redlist: Endangered

The Spotted Turtle is a valuable part of our natural heritage and an emblematic component of the vernal pond ecosystem. The Spotted Turtle is one of the best known and most beloved of all North American turtles, but it is now imperiled throughout significant portions of its range. The Orianne Society has been diligently working to conserve this iconic species. To learn more visit our Spotted Turtle’s page.

3. Bog Turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii)

Bog Turtle

IUCN Redlist: Critically Endangered

Bog Turtles almost exclusively inhabit marsh and swamp habitat away from large bodies of water. This prime habitat is often located in optimal agricultural soils and landscapes. Because of this, much of their habitat has been destroyed by associated drainage and run-off.

4. Northwestern Pond Turtle (Actinemys marmorata)

Northwestern Pond Turtle

IUCN Redlist: Vulnerable

The Northwestern Pond Turtle is rare from mid-Oregon north and from the Los Angeles basin south, but is relatively abundant in the center of its range in southern Oregon and northern California. This turtle can be found from sea level to around 1,500 meters living in ponds, lakes, streams, large rivers, slow-moving sloughs, and quiet waters. Despite the generalist lifestyle, these turtles have declined throughout 75 – 80% of its range and are nearly extinct in western Washington and British Columbia.

5. Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta)

Wood Turtle

IUCN Redlist: Endangered

Wood Turtles live primarily in and around river habitats and may use up to 2,000 feet on either side of a stream. Unfortunately, their home range is often shared with the areas most developed by humans in the form of agriculture, roads and residences. The overlap of Wood Turtle habitat and human activity increase turtle mortality rates and causes populations to decline. Through our most recent program, The Great Northern Forests Initiative, The Orianne Society is working to conserve Wood Turtles by assessing the status of their populations, protecting and restoring wetland habitat, and educating the public on the importance of these animals. As part of our outreach and education efforts, the Wood Turtle will be making its film debut later this fall. To learn more about this film and how you can help, head on over to “Lights, Camera, Action: Sharing the Story of the Wood Turtle”

In closing…

One of the major objectives of The Orianne Society is to keep animals off of the endangered species list. Besides the most obvious reason, that a non-listed animal most likely represents a relatively stable population, the other often overlooked reason involves the extensive complexity and costs of restoring and managing a population after it has already declined. In other words, it is much easier to keep an animal around rather than to try to bring it back once it is on the verge of disappearing. From vulnerable to critically endangered, all of these turtles deserve our attention.

So that’s it, five of the many turtle species we should all be talking about. We started the conversation, now it’s up to you to share it with others.

To learn more about our latest project, the Wood Turtle film, and how you can help, head on over to “Lights, Camera, Action: Sharing the Story of the Wood Turtle”

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