(to view more pictures of this turtle, visit www.herpnet.net)
Description: Wood Turtles are average sized turtles, with adults attaining carapace lengths of 5 ˝ to 8 inches. They are easily distinguished from other turtles by the sculpted appearance of their carapace. Each individual scute on the carapace is made of many annuli (or growth rings). These growth rings are added on top of each other so that individual scutes become raised. Oldfield and Moriarty (1994) liken each scute to tiny pyramids in appearance. The back edge of the turtle’s shell is serrated.
These turtles have dark heads and lighter (sometimes yellow) necks near the shell. Their plastrons are yellow with dark blotches appearing on each scute (similar to Blanding’s Turtles). However, Wood Turtles do not have the domed carapace of Blanding’s Turtles. Males are generally larger than females.
Habitat/Ecology: Wood turtles are reported to prefer rivers and river floodplains with inclines to uplands nearby. They are semi-aquatic turtles that spend a fair amount of time on land (especially during the summer), when they are known to wander through woodlands, wet meadows, and fields in search of food. They eat mostly on land and are omnivorous (consuming both vegetable and animal material). They are said to eat many types of berries, dandelions, mushrooms, earthworms, slugs, and insects.
Nest-building is reported in late May through June, and nests are built in sandbars, river banks and even open hillsides. These turtles over winter under water. It is said that Wood Turtles can produce a sound similar to a boiling teakettle (albeit more quiet) if startled.
Remarks: It is reported that Wood Turtles are slow to mature and produce only one clutch of eggs per year. Because of this, they are susceptible to population declines if their habitat is destroyed or they are harvested for any reason. Consequently, Wood Turtles are relatively rare within Wisconsin and are listed as “Threatened” by the Wisconsin DNR. Because of this, these turtles cannot be harmed or removed from the wild for any reason.
I have never encountered a Wood Turtle in my life (much to my dismay). The only reasons that I am including them on this website is because: (1) they are reported from La Crosse Co by Casper (1996), and (2) a report by the DNR of the fauna in the La Crosse River Marsh (Myrrick Park Marsh) several years ago noted finding Wood Turtles. I have spent a fair amount of time in this marsh and have not been fortunate enough to encounter them there. I would not be surprised if since the time of that report, they unfortunately have been eliminated from the area.
If you have found a Wood Turtle in the La Crosse area, please contact myself or Bob Hay at the DNR in Madison, WI., or Gary Casper at the Milwaukee Public Museum.