formerly Clemmys insculpta
Wood Turtle / Tortue des bois
The carapace of the Wood Turtle is
with the scutes raised in irregular
pyramidal shapes. The carapace is tan to dark brown in colour with raised lines radiating
from a corner of each scute. The
plastron is hinged and is yellow
with a dark blotch in the corner of each scute. The
head is black and
may have faint yellow dots. The underside of the neck, throat, tail and legs is yellow,
orange or red. Adults reach up to 24 cm carapace length.
Until recently, this species was considered to be a member of the genus Clemmys,
along with the Spotted Turtle. DNA analyses indicate that these two species are not closely
related and the Wood Turtle is now placed in a different genus.
Wood Turtles are not easily confused with any other species in Canada.
Blanding's Turtles have a similar plastron
although it is hinged, but they lack the bright colour of the undersides and the sculpted
carapace. Spotted Turtles are similar in colour of
both the carapace and body, but they are smaller and the carapace is not sculpted.
In Canada, Wood Turtles are found from Nova Scotia west to southern Ontario. In the United
States they are found in the Great Lakes region and eastward as far south as Virginia.
Wood Turtles, as the name implies, are our most terrestrial
turtle. Although they hibernate in water and nest near the shores of rivers, they spend
much of their time in upland forests and meadows.
Individuals may take 18 or more years to reach maturity. Nesting occurs in June and up
to 18 eggs may be laid. Some females may not breed every year. Nests are typically dug on
sandbars or river embankments. Hatchlings emerge from the nest in fall at 3-4 cm in
length. Predation rates on nests are as high as 90% in some populations. Unlike most
turtles, the gender of Wood Turtle hatchlings is independent of incubation temperature.
Wood Turtles eat a wide variety of food including leaves, fruits and flowers, mushrooms,
insects, worms, and anything else they can find. These turtles are considered to be
extremely intelligent. Many individuals learn to "stomp" for worms by stamping their
feet on the ground causing earthworms to come to the surface. They are also reputed to
be able to climb chain-link fences and stairs. Individuals can live for 30 or more years.
Because of their striking colouration and intelligence these turtles are prized by the pet
trade. Collecting for pets has decimated many of their populations and it is now illegal to
collect them in most of their range. The Wood Turtle is declining across much of its range,
with many populations now isolated from each other. Traffic mortality, agricultural
machinery and off-road vehicles also pose significant threats to this species. It is
designated Threatened by COSEWIC.