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Wood Turtles

wood turtleUpdate from the field:

The GWC team is numbering all wood turtles found this season, starting at 6001. Spotted in the Merrimack River Valley, wood turtle #6001 (pictured here) marks the first turtle of the season! The turtle was measured, notched (marking the turtle's shell for future identification) and then returned to the brook. Thanks to Julie Lisk for sharing her photo and findings!

Zoo New England’s Grassroots Wildlife Conservation has been monitoring wood turtles (Glyptemys insculpta) since 2012 at a wetland just east of Hanscom Airfield, in Concord, MA. To our knowledge, this is the last remaining wood turtle population in Concord, a town where this species was known to be relatively common in the past. In fact, the wood turtle was once the most common freshwater turtle in eastern Massachusetts. Now wood turtles are listed as a species of Special Concern in Massachusetts and listed as endangered on the IUCN redlist.

We’ve partnered with Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) on a three-year project to conserve wood turtle populations in eastern Massachusetts. Through the partnership, Zoo biologists will search in stream habitats to find wood turtles, track movement patterns and habitat use with radio telemetry, and identify unoccupied areas where wood turtles might successfully be restored in northeastern Massachusetts. Restoration efforts will include raising juvenile hatchlings to a size where they are less vulnerable to predators (headstarting), outfitting them with tracking devices, and releasing them either in the area where they hatched or a nearby, suitable reintroduction site.

About the Wood Turtle

The wood turtle is so-named because its carapace, or top shell, looks like carved wood. These medium-sized turtles grow to about 6–8 inches in length and are found in small populations throughout stream habitats in Massachusetts. Though few hatchlings survive to adulthood, once wood turtles reach maturity they can live to more than 70 years. As adults, wood turtles have few predators but are vulnerable to road casualties, forestry and agricultural activities, streambank development, and pesticide and heavy metal pollution in waterways.

Wood Turtle Fact Sheet