The Spotted Turtle. Photo: Pete Oxford

Spotted Turtle

The southeastern United States is recognized for its extraordinarily high species diversity of turtles. Complementing our efforts to protect the Gopher Tortoise, we are directing our efforts toward the conservation of a small, mostly-aquatic species, the Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata).

As with many species, habitat loss, habitat degradation and habitat fragmentation are the chief causes of Spotted Turtle population declines. Throughout the species’ range, wetlands formerly inhabited by Spotted Turtles have been drained and filled, or they have been rendered unsuitable by pollution, stream channelization, impoundments, eutrophication or other adverse impacts.

At many sites, upland and nesting habitats, as well as forest corridors connecting populations, have been lost to development, agriculture and commercial forestry practices. Urbanization and the accompanying increase in road density and traffic volume results in habitat fragmentation and therefore large numbers of turtles, including C. guttata, being killed when struck by vehicles. As with other plant and animal species, small and fragmented populations of Spotted Turtles are especially susceptible to extinction.

Due to their docile nature and beautiful coloration, Spotted Turtles have long been prized as pets by turtle hobbyists. Over-collection for the pet trade, including illegal collection, has dramatically reduced the size of some populations and eliminated others in portions of the species’ range.An unnatural and often human-subsidized overabundance of raccoons, a predator skilled at catching Spotted Turtle adults as well as finding and depredating nests, poses a serious threat to some populations.

Many Spotted Turtle populations have become isolated or have declined or disappeared due to habitat loss, road mortality and adverse impacts to wetlands. Fortunately, the species is now protected from collection (or collection is regulated) in the states in which it occurs. In 2012 the species was petitioned by the Center for Biological Diversity for Federal Listing status as “Threatened” and is currently state-listed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GADNR). In addition, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the Spotted Turtle as globally “Endangered.”


Related Information

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Eastern Indigo Snake

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Gopher Tortoise

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