The Wood Turtle has a moderately domed shell. Each scute is covered by a pyramidal stack of older and smaller scutes that form clear concentric rings. The brown or gray carapace (shell covering the back) has a weakly toothed posterior margin (back edge). The plastron (shell covering the belly) is wide and yellow with black on the outer edges of the scutes. Wood Turtles have black heads and their legs and neck are yellow, orange, or red. The carapace length of the adults ranges from 6-10 inches.
Get more detailed identification and life history information by downloading the chart here.
You can learn more about this species and see some video footage by checking out this short clip from our Rattlers, Peepers & Snappers DVD. Find answers to some frequently asked questions about turtle nesting, what to do if a turtle nests on your property, and how to protect turtle nests at this link.
Wood Turtles are primarily river turtles that prefer streams with a moderate slope and speed. They feed in uplands and fields that are adjacent to the streams. They will venture some distance from the stream (sometimes 1000 feet or more) but they rely on the stream for refuge and overwintering.
This species has a state natural heritage rank of S3 (uncommon, localized). Illegal collection has been a problem. The Wood Turtle has been designated a Species of Greatest Conservation Need (high priority) in Vermont’s Wildlife Action Plan, and is a species of special concern in Vermont. Please report all sightings of this species in Vermont. Take photos if possible. Even historic sighting information is useful.
Glyptemys insculpta used to be called Clemmys insculpta.
- Glyptemys insculpta at Animal Diversity website
- Glyptemys insculpta at Canadian Herpetological Society website
- Clemmys insculpta in the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Action Plan: Amphibian & Reptiles (9/25/2015 draft)
- Wood Turtle Factsheet from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources
- Glyptemys insculpta from NEPARC
Species summary written by Ariel K. McK. Burgess.