- (Schneider, 1792)
Other English Common Names: spotted turtle
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s):
Clemmys guttata (Schneider, 1792) (TSN 173771)
French Common Names: tortue ponctuée
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.100580
Element Code: ARAAD02010
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates
Genus Size: A - Monotypic genus
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Concept Reference: King, F. W., and R. L. Burke, editors. 1989. Crocodilian, tuatara, and turtle species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference. Association of Systematics Collections, Washington, D.C. 216 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B89KIN01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Clemmys guttata
Taxonomic Comments: Molecular data and morphological evidence indicate that the genus Clemmys (sensu McDowell 1964) is paraphyletic (see Bickham et al. 1996, Holman and Fritz 2001, Feldman and Parham 2002, Seidel 2002, Stephens and Weins 2003). Based on morphological data, Holman and Fritz (2001) split Clemmys as follows: Clemmys guttata was retained as the only member of the genus; Clemmys insculpta and C. muhlenbergii were placed in the genus Glyptemys (as first reviser, Holman and Fritz gave Glyptemys Agassiz, 1857, precedence over the simultaneously published genus Calemys Agassiz, 1857); and Clemmys marmorata was transferred to the monotypic genus Actinemys.
Genetic data support the basic features of this arrangement. An analysis of emydid relationships based on molecular data (Feldman and Parham 2002) identified four well-supported clades: Terrapene; Clemmys guttata; C. insculpta and C. muhlenbergii; and Clemmys marmorata, Emys orbicularis, and Emydoidea blandingii. Feldman and Parham retained Clemmys guttata as the only member of that genus; regarded Clemmys marmorata, Emys orbicularis, and Emydoidea blandingii as congeneric (in the genus Emys, which has priority); and placed C. insculpta and C. muhlenbergii in the genus Calemys. However, Feldman and Parham were unaware that Holman and Fritz (2001) had given Glyptemys precedence over Calemys, so the correct generic name for these turtles under the arrangement of Feldman and Parham is Glyptemys. In contrast to Holman and Fritz (2001), Feldman and Parham (2002) argued that placing Clemmys marmorata in the monotypic genus Actinemys would unnecessarily obscure its phylogenetic relationships, and they recommended that marmorata be included in the genus Emys.
See also McDowell (1964), Merkle (1975), Lovich et al. (1991), and Bickham et al. (1996) for information on relationships among turtles of the genus Clemmys (sensu lato).
Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 19Feb2014
Global Status Last Changed: 21Oct1996
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Widely distributed from the southeastern Great Lakes region to New England and southern Quebec, and southward through the east coast states to Florida; locally common in many areas, but apparently declining in some areas, due to habitat loss and fragmentation and perhaps excessive collecting; better information is needed on the current population trend.
Nation: United States
National Status: N5
National Status: N3
U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Connecticut (S4), Delaware (S3), District of Columbia (S1), Florida (S3?), Georgia (S3), Illinois (S1), Indiana (S2), Maine (S3), Maryland (S5), Massachusetts (S4), Michigan (S2), New Hampshire (S3), New Jersey (S3), New York (S3), North Carolina (S3), Ohio (S3), Pennsylvania (S3), Rhode Island (S5), South Carolina (S5), Vermont (S1), Virginia (S4), West Virginia (S1)
Ontario (S2), Quebec (S1)
Canadian Species at Risk Act (SARA) Schedule 1/Annexe 1 Status: E
Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC): Endangered
Comments on COSEWIC: This species occurs at low density, has an unusually low reproductive potential, combined with a long-lived life history, and occurs in small numbers in bogs and marshes that are fragmented and disappearing. Although some populations are in protected areas, they may have a low probability of persistence, especially because small numbers and isolation reduce population viability. The low frequency of juveniles in most studied populations suggests these populations are composed largely of remnant, aged cohorts with low reproductive success. Another clear threat is from collection for the pet trade. There is no rescue effect.
Designated Special Concern in April 1991. Status re-examined and designated as Endangered in May 2004. Last assessment based on an update status report.
IUCN Red List Category: EN - Endangered
NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors
Range Extent: 200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Range extends from southern Maine (Hunter et al. 1999), southern Quebec, southern Ontario (MacCulloch 2002), Michigan (Lower Peninsula; Harding 1997), and northeastern Illinois south to central Indiana, central Ohio, and southwestern Pennsylvania, and southward along U.S. east coast from New England to northern or north-central Florida (Conant and Collins 1991, Ernst et al. 1994, Barnwell et al. 1997).
Number of Occurrences: > 300
Number of Occurrences Comments: About 200 element occurrence records from observations since 1970 were reported from seven states (Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, Vermont, West Virginia). Six other states indicated there were thought to be "many" populations, ranging from estimates of 50+ to 100s, and ranked the species S4 or S5 (Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania). Three other states (Florida, Ohio, Massachusetts) indicated that the species was somewhat rare (S3). Information on Canadian populations was not available. Based on this information, it is estimated that there are at least 500 occurrences rangewide.
Certainly there are at least several hundred occurrences, but the number of occurrences has not been assessed using recently developed occurrence criteria.
Population Size: 10,000 - 1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: This estimate is based on a minimal average population size of 20 individuals and the above minimal estimate of some 500 populations rangewide.
Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Many to very many (41 to >125)
Overall Threat Impact: Medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Primary threats to this species are habitat fragmentation and alteration, grazing, draining and filling of wetlands, road mortality, collecting, artificial control of water levels, and pollution. Warm-season draw-downs of wetlands for game management can initiate emigrations of turtles that result in significant road kills (Harding 1993, pers. comm.). Illicit commercial exploitation and incidental collecting is depleting populations in many parts of the range (Hunter et al. 1992). Increasing human populations and associated development in the last two decades have reduced the quantity and quality of the spotted turtle habitat in southern Maine (McCollough 1991) and southeastern New Hampshire (Carroll 1993, pers. comm.), as well as in many other parts of its range. Nest predation and road kills may increase as development fragments the landscape. The small wetlands favored by this species are often not protected by wetland conservation laws. Tolerant of nondestructive intrusion, though heavy human visitation in late spring/early summer could interfere with nesting.
Short-term Trend: Decline of <30% to relatively stable
Short-term Trend Comments: Trends are not well-documented in most of the range. Populations probably have declined in areas with heavy development and extensive loss of wetlands, but many other areas retain viable populations. For example, declines have occurred in heavily developed parts of Connecticut and New York, but the species remains locally common in many areas in southern New England (Klemens 1993; Hammerson, pers. obs.). Declined in northwestern Indiana between the 1930s and 1990s (Brodman et al. 2002).
Long-term Trend: Decline of <30% to increase of 25%
Long-term Trend Comments: Likely relatively stable in extent of occurrence, uncertain degree of decline in population size and number/condition of occurrences.
Intrinsic Vulnerability: Highly to moderately vulnerable.
Environmental Specificity: Narrow to moderate.
Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information
Inventory Needs: Overall distribution is well known. Long-term monitoring of populations is needed to provide trend information.
Protection Needs: Protect numerous existing viable populations and appropriate habitat, including wetlands, adjacent uplands, potential nesting areas, and corridors connecting nearby wetlands, in areas scattered throughout the range. Documentation and protection of overwintering and estivation sites and low-water refugia are important.
(200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles))
Range extends from southern Maine (Hunter et al. 1999), southern Quebec, southern Ontario (MacCulloch 2002), Michigan (Lower Peninsula; Harding 1997), and northeastern Illinois south to central Indiana, central Ohio, and southwestern Pennsylvania, and southward along U.S. east coast from New England to northern or north-central Florida (Conant and Collins 1991, Ernst et al. 1994, Barnwell et al. 1997).
U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations
U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, MA, MD, ME, MI, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, SC, VA, VT, WV
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted.
For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.
Range Map Compilers: NatureServe 2008
U.S. Distribution by County
||County Name (FIPS Code)
New Haven (09009),
New London (09011),
St. Johns (12109),
Jeff Davis (13161),
La Porte (18091),
St. Joseph (18141),
St. Clair (26147),
St. Joseph (26149),
Van Buren (26159),
Cape May (34009),
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed
||Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
Lower Penobscot (01020005)+,
Lower Kennebec (01030003)+,
Lower Androscoggin (01040002)+,
Maine Coastal (01050002)+,
St. George-Sheepscot (01050003)+,
Piscataqua-Salmon Falls (01060003)+,
Middle Connecticut (01080201)+,
Lower Connecticut (01080205)+,
Cape Cod (01090002)+,
Upper Delaware (02040101)+,
Middle Delaware-Mongaup-Brodhead (02040104)+,
Middle Delaware-Musconetcong (02040105)+,
Lower Delaware (02040202)+,
Great Egg Harbor (02040302)+,
Upper Susquehanna-Tunkhannock (02050106)+,
Upper Susquehanna-Lackawanna (02050107)+,
Lower West Branch Susquehanna (02050206)+,
Lower Susquehanna-Penns (02050301)+,
Lower Juniata (02050304)+,
Lower Susquehanna-Swatara (02050305)+,
Lower Susquehanna (02050306)+,
Lower Pee Dee (03040201)+,
Little Pee Dee (03040204)+,
Coastal Carolina (03040208)+*,
Lake Marion (03050111)+*,
South Carolina Coastal (03050202)+*,
South Fork Edisto (03050204)+,
Four Hole Swamp (03050206)+*,
Broad-St. Helena (03050208)+*,
Middle Savannah (03060106)+,
Lower Savannah (03060109)+,
Upper Ogeechee (03060201)+,
Lower Ogeechee (03060202)+,
Ogeechee Coastal (03060204)+,
Lower Oconee (03070102)+,
Lower Ocmulgee (03070104)+,
Little Ocmulgee (03070105)+,
St. Marys (03070204)+,
Lower St. Johns (03080103)+,
Upper Suwannee (03110201)+*,
Lower Suwannee (03110205)+,
Apalachee Bay-St. Marks (03120001)+*,
Little Calumet-Galien (04040001)+,
St. Joseph (04050001)+,
Upper Grand (04050004)+,
Lower Grand (04050006)+,
Pere Marquette-White (04060101)+,
St. Clair (04090001)+*,
Lake St. Clair (04090002)+,
St. Joseph (04100003)+,
Lower Maumee (04100009)+,
Winooski River (04150403)+*,
Lake Champlain (04150408)+
Lower Allegheny (05010009)+,
Lower Scioto (05060002)+,
Upper Great Miami (05080001)+,
Little Miami (05090202)+,
Upper Wabash (05120101)+*,
Middle Wabash-Deer (05120105)+,
Upper White (05120201)+
Des Plaines (07120004)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Basic Description: A small semi-aquatic turtle.
General Description: BRIEF SUMMARY: Shell hard, somewhat flattened; upper shell black and usually with scattered rounded yellow spots; yellow or orange spots on head and neck; lower shell yellow or yellow-orange with a large black blotch on each scute. Maximum upper shell length about 13 cm. Mature male: vent located beyond rear edge of upper shell with tail extended; chin tan or dark; lower shell concave. Mature female: vent at or inside rear edge of upper shell with tail extended; chin yellowish. Hatchling: usually one yellow spot on each large scute on upper shell.
MORE DETAILS: A small black turtle with small, round, yellow spots on the broad, smooth, keelless carapace; small and old individuals sometimes are spotless; some individuals have growth layers evident on the carapace scutes; plastron is yellow or yellow-orange and has a large black blotch on each scute; head is mostly black with scattered yellow spots and blotches; limbs are gray to black above and often have yellow spots; the skin under the legs and neck is orange or pinkish (Harding and Holman 1990); males have a tan chin, brown eyes, slightly concave plastron, and (in adults) a long thick tail with the vent well beyond the posterior end of the carapace; females have a yellow chin, orange eyes, a flat or convex plastron, and a short tail with the vent under the posterior marginals; carapace length is 12.5 cm or less (Ernst et al. 1994). Males, at 80 to 89 mm in plastron length, average 155.5 g; females, at 90 to 99 mm in plastron length, average 174.7 g (Ernst 1975). Hatchlings are blue-black and usually have one, more than one, or no yellow spots on each carapacial scute; plastron is yellow with a black pattern; head is spotted and sometimes the neck is spotted; average dimensions are 29.8 mm carapace length, 31.3 mm carapace width, 26.4 mm plastron length, and 16.0 mm plastron width (Ernst 1970). Juveniles are black and may lack or have reduced spotting on the shell.
The eggs are smooth, white and elliptical. Nests generally are about 2 inches deep, 2 inches wide near the bottom, and one inch wide at the top (Ernst 1970).
Reproduction Comments: Mating occurs March-May, typically during cool weather (Ernst 1982). Eggs are laid late May-early July (mostly June) (Ernst 1967). Nest digging lasts 29 to 75 minutes (Ernst 1970); egg-laying and covering of the nest may last well into the night. All-night nesting has been documented in Illinois (Carroll, pers. comm.).
Clutch size is 1-8, with an average of 3-5 (Adler 1961, Ernst 1970); mean clutch size is larger in the north than in the south (Litzgus and Mousseau 2003). Usually one clutch is laid each year (Ernst 1967), but some females may produce 2 clutches/season (Herp. Rev. 20:69). In South Carolina, 5 of 12 gravid females produced second clutches and 1 produced a third (Litzgus and Mousseau 2003). Incubation requires 45 to 83 days, depending on nest temperature.
Hatching occurs in late August to September (Fineran 1948, Ernst and Barbour 1972, Ernst et al. 1974, Harding and Holman 1990). Rarely, hatchlings from late nestings may overwinter in the nest, emerging the following spring (Ernst 1975). Growth of the hatchlings the first season depends on the date of emergence from the nest, varying from 4.2 to 17.5 mm (Pennsylvania; Ernst 1975).
Growth after the first season varies, with the smallest individuals growing the fastest (Ernst 1975). The growth rate decreases as the turtles increase in size; adults grow at a rate of 2 to 3 percent each year (Ernst 1975). In Rhode Island, mean plastral length increased 7.5 mm per year from the first through the fifth year of growth (Graham 1970). The annual growth rate declined each season from the second to the sixth and then increased in the seventh preceding the attainment of sexual maturity.
Age of sexual maturity is probably more closely related to reaching a specific size than age, although this length is usually obtained by 10 years of age (Ernst 1975). Sexual maturity may take longer to achieve in the north than in southeastern Pennsylvania, where females are sexually mature in about 7-9 years, males in 7-10 years (Ernst, 1994, J. Herpetol. 28:99-102). Males reached maturity at a minimum plastron length of 83.4 mm; in females the minimum was 80.8 mm (Ernst and Barbour 1972).
The maximum life span of adults is at least 26 years but may be as high as 50 (Tyning 1990). The longevity of a captive recorded by Pope (1939) was 42 years, and Graham (1970) recorded a 26-year-old turtle found in the wild. In Pennyslvania, prenatal mortality eliminated 32 percent of the eggs per clutch and postnatal mortality reduced the progeny to still a smaller number (Ernst 1976); egg survivorship to hatching in Pennsylvania was 0.58 (Iverson 1991); reproductive potential was 2.4 young per clutch (Ernst 1976); estimated average annual mortality for juveniles was 45%.
As is true of most turtles, spotted turtles have temperature-dependent sex determination; eggs incubated at 27 C or below produced a large percentage of males whereas those incubated at 30 C produced all females (Ewert and Nelson 1991).
Ecology Comments: The spotted turtle is usually solitary but may be found in large aggregations in suitable feeding areas or at basking sites (Ernst 1976). In Pennsylvania, population density was estimated at 15-32 per acre (Ernst 1976). The population had a 1:1.46 male to female ratio and a 1:2.09 juvenile to adult ratio. Out of a total of seven different species of turtles captured in the mark-recapture study, CLEMMYS GUTTATA was the second most abundant turtle comprising 10.2 percent of the total. Another turtle in this study, CHRYSEMYS PICTA, had a population density of 239 individuals per acre. In two sites in Massachusetts, density was estimated at 0.2 and 1.4 adults per ha (Milam and Melvin 2001).
In Pennsylvania, Ernst (1976) found there to be a commensal relationship between spotted turtles and muskrats. Many turtles were dependent on the bank burrows of the muskrat, with the burrow forming the center of the home range.
In Maine, fish are believed to be competitors for food with the spotted turtle, and painted turtles are believed to compete for space (McCollough, pers. comm.). There is an overlap of habitat use and seasonal movements between adult spotted turtles and subadult Blanding's turtles; competition for food or space may or may not be a problem (Carroll, pers. comm.). Occasional juvenile common snapping turtles and adult eastern painted turtles appear in spotted turtle microhabitats and may compete for food (Carroll, pers. comm.).
Predators include foxes, skunks, and raccoons (Ernst 1976; McCollough, pers. comm.). Hatchlings and juveniles are eaten by many birds and small mammals such as shrews (Harding, pers. comm.).
Parasites include leeches (PLACOBDELLA sp.) that attach to limb sockets, tails, and plastrons (Ernst 1976). Leeches were found on spotted turtles just out of hibernation, suggesting that leeches overwinter attached to the turtles (Carroll, pers. comm.).
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: Females move up to several hundred meters between wetlands and upland nesting sites. See Population/Occurrence Delineation for detailed information on movements.
Estuarine Habitat(s): Herbaceous wetland
Riverine Habitat(s): CREEK, Low gradient, Pool
Lacustrine Habitat(s): Shallow water
Palustrine Habitat(s): Bog/fen, FORESTED WETLAND, HERBACEOUS WETLAND, Riparian, SCRUB-SHRUB WETLAND, TEMPORARY POOL
Special Habitat Factors: Benthic, Burrowing in or using soil, Fallen log/debris
Habitat Comments: Spotted turtles inhabit mostly unpolluted, shallow bodies of water with a soft bottom and aquatic vegetation, such as small marshes, marshy pastures, bogs, fens, woodland streams, swamps, small ponds, vernal pools, and lake margins; in some areas they occur in brackish tidal streams.. Ponds surrounded by relatively undisturbed meadow or undergrowth are most favorable. These turtles favor waters with a soft bottom and aquatic vegetation. They often bask along the water's edge, on brush piles in water, or on logs or vegetation clumps. Often they move seasonally among different wetland types and may spend significant time on land during summer.
Cold season hibernation occurs in the muddy bottoms of waterways or bogs in communal hibernacula. Hibernacula usually have water depths of 55 to 95 cm (22 to 37 in) with a slow but steady flow or drift of water through densely vegetated wetlands with a deep, soft, mucky substrate (Carroll, pers. comm.). Muskrat burrows in Pennsylvania were used as winter hibernacula, nocturnal sleeping sites, refugia from danger, and estivation sites during the warm dry months (Ernst 1976). In Massachusetts, radio-tagged individuals hibernated in red maple-sphagnum swamps, then moved in late March to upland vernal pools, where they spent 3-4 months, then left the pools in August and spent 4-14 days in secluded terrestrial sites, then completed the move back to the swamps in August (Graham 1995). Hibernation occurred exclusively in bogs in central Ontario (Haxton and Berrill 1999) and in sphagnum swamps on an island in Georgian Bay, Ontario (Litzgus and Brooks 2000). See Lewis and Ritzenthaler (1997) for characteristics of hibernacula and hibernacula use in a fen in Ohio. Litzgus and Brooks (2000) documented seasonal changes in habitat selection in Ontario.
Eggs are laid in well-drained soil of marshy pastures, in grass or sedge tussock or mossy hummocks, in open areas (e.g., dirt path or road) at edge of thick vegetation, or similar sites exposed to sun. Sandy, sparsely vegetated strips and washouts along agricultural field edges are favorable for nesting (Carroll, pers. comm.). In South Carolina, gravid females spent a considerable amount of time on or at the edge of a powerline right-of-way, and they nested on the edge of the powerline and in relatively recent clearcuts (Litzgus and Mousseau 2004).
New Hampshire: deep-muck, densely vegetated scrub-shrub swamp or emergent marsh habitats that are edgewaters or backwaters of low-gradient reaches of permanent streams with moderate to slow flowages, and water depth of 10 to 50 cm (Carroll, pers. comm.). Rhode Island: reported from salt marshes and small bogs or ponds with adjacent dry upland oak-pine forest (DeGraaf and Rudis 1983). Florida: woodland or meadow streams with sphagnum. Indiana: thoroughly aquatic, said to inhabit bogs by Smith (1961); also has been collected in shallow inlets of lakes, grassy marshes, drainage ditches, and woodland ponds, and is rarely found in flowing water (Minton 1972). Maine: unpolluted, small, shallow wetlands surrounded by dense vegetation such as slow streams, ponds, vernal pools, bog ponds, roadside ditches, and wet meadows (Hunter et al. 1992). Vermont: areas of highbush blueberry/red maple swamps, and in kettle basin shrub swamps (Fichtel, pers. comm.).
Adult Food Habits: Herbivore, Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Herbivore, Invertivore
Food Comments: Primary diet is various aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates; also eats plant material, carrion, and occasionally small vertebrates (Harding and Holman 1990). forages and seeks out food by creeping about in shallow water and periodically probing with snout into algae and other aquatic vegetation (Ernst 1976); does not feed out of the water. Hatchlings eat mainly small insects, worms, and snails (Tyning 1990).
Adult Phenology: Diurnal, Hibernates/aestivates
Immature Phenology: Diurnal, Hibernates/aestivates
Phenology Comments: Spotted turtles are most active during daytime in spring and are relatively inactive in summer, fall, and winter, though sometimes they are active in the vicinity of overwintering sites in September and October. In Pennsylvania, feeding in the spring did not start until the water temperature reached 15 C, and all feeding individuals had cloacal temperatures over 15 C (Ernst 1982). During summer drought, they may withdraw to overwintering sites or other refugia and become largely inactive, or go into estivation (Carroll, pers. comm.); estivation is usually initiated when the mean air temperature is 30 C (Ernst 1982). If suitable water levels are available in association with cover favored by this species, significant numbers may remain active, even if water temperatures become relatively warm (22 to 28 degrees C) (Carroll, pers. comm.). At the northern extent of the range in central Ontario, spotted turtles are active from early or mid-April through late October-early November (Haxton and Berrill 2001), longer than characteristic of southern populations. See Lovich (1988) for comparison of seasonal activity patterns in Maryland, South Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
Activity is strongly diurnal. Ernst (1976) found that the mean daily activity period became progressively earlier as the season advanced and temperatures increased. When darkness approaches, turtles burrow into the mud or crawl into muskrat burrows and become inactive until dawn; only nesting females are active after dusk (Ernst 1976).
Length: 13 centimeters
Not yet assessed
Stewardship Overview: The spotted turtle is a small semi-aquatic turtle found in eastern North America. Increased development pressures (commercial and residential) in wetlands since European settlement have contributed to the national trend of decreasing populations. Habitat alteration/fragmentation and (locally) grazing are major threats. Commercial collecting for the pet trade is a serious threat to some populations. Stewardship needs include protection of existing populations and their wetland habitats, habitat restoration, and adequate monitoring of populations to detect population trends.
Species Impacts: Not known to detrimentally impact other species to a significant extent.
Restoration Potential: Wetland restoration and landscape level planning can increase the connections among suitable habitat patches; this could help improve the security of existing populations. The natural reconstruction or human replacement of beaver dams, lesser impoundments, and channels may be beneficial, as all appear to have historically led to the creation of wetland complexes that this turtle favored (Carroll, pers. comm.).
Preserve Selection & Design Considerations: Preserves should be designed around wetland complexes and include adequate habitat for nesting and estivation. Priority should be given to habitat well-removed from paved and all but minimum-use dirt roads and buffered from commercial and incidental collecting. Nesting habitat should be extensive, varied, centrally located within the overall habitat, and buffered against human access and activity. Habitat integrity must be maintained and secured so that populations have the ability to disperse and interchange genes with other populations.
Management Requirements: Nesting habitat is conducive to protection, restoration, creation, and management (Carroll, pers. comm.). In nesting areas, setting back plant succession every 5 to 25 years would be beneficial. Preventing the invasion of non-native plants (purple loosestrife and common reed) and eradicating them from spotted turtle habitat is essential (Carroll, pers. comm.). Restoration of wetlands would be beneficial in some areas. Maintenance of high water quality is important; the degradation of water quality leads to a tendency to emigrate in search of more desirable habitat.
Headstarting of hatchlings is not recommended, except in cases of severest species decline (Carroll, pers. comm.). However, if practiced, hatchlings should be released at nest sites, rather than transporting them to wetlands.
Monitoring Requirements: Populations and wetland habitats should be monitored, especially in a way that yields adequate information on long-term population trends and movements. Possible methods include the use of radio telemetry equipment and mark-recapture techniques. The use of baited traps and unbaited interruption traps can be used for obtaining data on population size, habitat use, seasonal activity, and movements. David Carroll has volunteered to share trap designs and strategies for appropriate studies.
Management Research Needs: Additional research is needed on habitat and minimum area requirements and habitat carrying capacity in different parts of the range. A study of the historic, current, and projected long-term status of the spotted turtle in the commercial cranberry bogs of southeastern Massachusetts would be beneficial (Carroll, pers. comm.). Data are needed on the actual or potential impacts of (a) the destruction of beaver dams and (b) pond and lake drawdowns. Demographic research is also needed. Greater knowledge of geomorphology and seasonal hydrology of the habitat would facilitate the preservation, maintenance, restoration, or possibly creation of activity centers and refugia that would allow the species to expand within, or be re-introduced into, larger wetland systems (Carroll, pers. comm.). Research is needed on the distance turtles will move to find these sites.
Biological Research Needs: Obtain better information on movement patterns, metapopulation structure and dynamics, and area/habitat requirements for viable populations. Monitor losses and fragmentation of wetlands; this could provide useful information on large-scale changes in habitat availability, which would suggest turtle population trend. Investigate the actual or potential impacts of the destruction of beaver dams and the effect of pond and lake draw-downs on spotted turtles and their habitat.
Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a given location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals (including eggs) in or near appropriate habitat where the species is presumed to be established and breeding.
Separation Barriers: Busy highway or highway with obstructions such that turtles rarely if ever cross successfully; untraversable topography (e.g., cliff); urbanized area lacking aquatic or wetland habitat.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 2 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 3 km
Separation Justification: Clemmys guttata exhibits limited movements, with most home ranges not more than a few hundred meters along the largest axis. Adult females may migrate outside the usual home range to nest (Ernst 1970), up to hundreds of meters between water and terrestrial nesting areas. Movements also may reflect migrations between hibernacula and spring-summer habitat.
In New Hampshire, turtles migrated about 300 m migration from an overwintering site to a seasonal pool of about 1 ha (foraging and mating habitat) (Carroll, pers. comm.). An intermittent stream and a parallel side channel of a permanent stream about 40 m distant from the intermittent stream were the primary travel corridors.
In Massachusetts, individuals migrated about 120 m between hibernation sites and vernal pools in late March and August; average home range size was 0.75 ha (Graham 1995).
In Pennsylvania, adult C. guttata in a marsh had a home range of about 0.5-0.6 ha (Ernst 1970). This study did not employ radiotelemetry, so home range may have been underestimated.
In Ohio, mean core activity area was 0.14 ha, 95% activity area was 1.79 ha, and minimum perimeter polygon home range size averaged 1.30 ha (Lewis and Faulhaber 1999). Excursions beyond regularly occupied habitats (almost exclusively by females) extended 200-720 m, with a duration of less than three weeks to as many as three months (Lewis and Faulhaber 1999).
In Maine, radio-tagged individuals moved an average of 247 m (70-570 m) straight-line distance from the wetland used prior to nesting to their nesting site, and individuals moved an average of 311 m (110-1150 m) straight-line distance between different wetlands used for at least 5 days (Joyal et al. 2001). Upland dormancy sites were up to 80 m from the nearest wetland (Joyal et al. 2001).
At two sites in Massachusetts, mean home range was 3.5 ha (range 0.2-34.4 ha), mean home range length was 313 m (range 115-1125 m), and maximum distance traveled from hibernacula averaged 265 m (range 75-1025 m). Turtles exhibited a seasonal pattern of emergence from overwintering sites, overland travel (20-550 m) to seasonal pools, female nesting excursions, overland travel to estivation sites, and overland travel to hibernacula. Estivation sites were up to 412 m from permanent wetlands, and most females nested in fields 75-312 m from permanent wetlands.
In South Carolina (Litzgus and Mousseau 2004), home ranges overlapped, and there was an area of concentrated overlap in early spring, indicating an aggregation of turtles, likely for breeding. Individuals showed annual fidelity to home-range areas. Home-range size (calculated using three methods) for males was smaller (about 5 ha) than that of gravid females (about 16 ha).
These data suggest that spotted turtles regularly make substantial movments. It seems unlikely that locations separated by a gap of less than a few kilometers of suitable habitat would represent independent occurrences over the long term.
Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): .5 km
Author: Hammerson, G.
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank)
Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 28Jan2010
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Van Dam, B., J. D. Soule, and G. Hammerson
Management Information Edition Date: 30Sep1993
Management Information Edition Author: VAN DAM, BONNIE. EDITED BY G. HAMMERSON.
Management Information Acknowledgments: Thanks to all the state heritage program personnel who responded to requests for information: Massachusetts - Kelly Slater; Vermont - Chris Fichtel; Maine - Mark McCollough; New Hampshire - Andy Cutko; Indiana - Michelle Martin; Connecticut - Dawn McKay; Pennsylvania - Barb Barton; Maryland - Lynn Davidson; New Jersey - Rick Dutko; North Carolina - Harry LeGrand; West Virginia - Barbara Sargent; Georgia - Jon Ambrose; Illinois - Jean Karnes; Florida - Katy NeSmith; Ohio - Pat Jones. James Harding and David Carroll reviewed an earlier draft and provided many suggestions that added substantially to the final document.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 28Jan2010
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Van Dam, B., and G. Hammerson
Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of
natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).
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