Turtles are an easy to recognize reptile that is famous for carrying their house on their back. In Kentucky, we have 14 species of turtles. All of our turtles are aquatic and live in water except for the Eastern Box Turtle. Box Turtles live in fields and marginal woodlands. Aquatic turtles spend the majority of their time in the water. They do come out to sun themselves, lay eggs and may travel over land to seek another water source.
Turtle is the common name for our friends with a shell. Tortoises are turtles that live on land and Terrapins are fresh water turtles. This is the time of year that turtles come out of hibernation and start moving around. They see that blacktop road as a nice warm pathway! If you see a turtle crossing the road, and you can safely pull over, you can give them an assist. Take them into the direction they were going and put them down facing away from the road. Remember to wash your hands after handling a turtle.
Box Turtles are territorial and often live within 250 yards of where they were born. Removing a turtle from its territory causes confusion, not finding food sources and conflict with other turtles.
Kentucky currently monitors six species of turtles for conservation efforts due to habitat loss, water pollution and population decline. The Smooth Shell, Alligator Snapping Turtle, and Mississippi Map Turtle are rare in Kentucky. Many turtles such as the Red eared Slider are declining in number due to the pet trade. In the United States it is illegal to sell a turtle if the carapace is less than 4 inches in length. In Kentucky is illegal to remove turtles from the wild and keep them as pets, buy or sell them. It is also illegal to remove turtles from the wild and use them in turtle races.
Fun Turtle Facts
· The Eastern Box Turtle can live 100 years, although average is 35
· The first turtles occurred 200 million years ago, before dinosaurs
· Biggest turtle was an Alligator Snapping Turtle that weighed 316 lbs.
· The Common Musk turtle has glands that secrete a stinky oil
· The Soft-shell Turtle has a leathery shell instead of a hard shell
Sometimes turtles can become over populated in a pond and cause problems if they are eating too many fish or young water fowl. Turtles can be caught in a trap and relocated to another pond at least two miles away.
Ame Vanorio is the founder/director of Fox Run Environmental Education Center in Falmouth, Ky. We teach environmental education programs and serve as a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center. Call us with wildlife emergencies at 859-242-1037.