Pseudemys rubriventris - (LeConte, 1830)
Northern Red-bellied Cooter
Other English Common Names: Redbelly Turtle
Synonym(s): Chrysemys rubriventris
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Pseudemys rubriventris (LeConte, 1830) (TSN 173814)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.106410
Element Code: ARAAD07050
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Turtles
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Chelonia Cryptodeira Emydidae Pseudemys
Genus Size: C - Small genus (6-20 species)
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Concept Reference
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: Pseudemys rubriventris
Taxonomic Comments: Sometimes has been placed in the genus CHRYSEMYS. A study of morphological variation throughout the range concluded that the recognition of subspecies is not warranted (Iverson and Graham 1990). In the Atlantic drainages of the east-central U.S., P. RUBRIVENTRIS is morphologically distinct from P. FLORIDANA and P. CONCINNA, though in the southern part of its range RUBRIVENTRIS is somewhat morphologically convergent with FLORIDANA; this may reflect hybridization or convergent evolution (Seidel and Palmer 1991). See Seidel (1994) for a morphometric analysis and taxonomic treatment of the genus PSEUDEMYS.
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 04May2005
Global Status Last Changed: 21Oct1996
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Nation: United States
National Status: N5 (05Oct1996)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
United States Delaware (S5), District of Columbia (S4), Maryland (S5), Massachusetts (SNR), New Jersey (S4), New York (SNA), North Carolina (S3S4), Pennsylvania (S2S3), Virginia (S4), West Virginia (S2)

Other Statuses

Implied Status under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): PS
Comments on USESA: USFWS announced a 90-day finding on a petition to remove subspecies bangsi (in Biotics as pop. 1) from the ESA; they found the petition may be warranted and are initiating a status review (Federal Register, 3 October 2006).
IUCN Red List Category: NT - Near threatened

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 20,000-200,000 square km (about 8000-80,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain from central New Jersey to North Carolina; westward in Potomac River to eastern West Virginia. Disjunct population in Plymouth County, southeastern Massachusetts. Questionable record from Naushon Island, Massachusetts (Graham 1991). Introduced and possibly established in New York.

Number of Occurrences: 81 - 300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Occurrences have not been delineated using consistent criteria, so the number of occurrences is unknown. However, there are many occurrences of this turtle in the primary part of its range in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and New Jersey.

Population Size: 10,000 - 1,000,000 individuals

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Some to many (13-125)

Overall Threat Impact: Medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Populations along the Delaware River in Pennsylvania have declined as a result of the effects of industrial expansion, drainage of wetlands, water pollution, and application of pesticides to control mosquitos (Ernst et al. 1994).

Short-term Trend: Decline of <30% to relatively stable

Long-term Trend: Decline of <50% to Relatively Stable

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Highly to moderately vulnerable.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Global Range: (20,000-200,000 square km (about 8000-80,000 square miles)) Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain from central New Jersey to North Carolina; westward in Potomac River to eastern West Virginia. Disjunct population in Plymouth County, southeastern Massachusetts. Questionable record from Naushon Island, Massachusetts (Graham 1991). Introduced and possibly established in New York.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: endemic to a single nation

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States DC, DE, MA, MD, NC, NJ, NYexotic, PA, VA, WV

Range Map
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

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe 2008

U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
MA Barnstable (25001), Plymouth (25023)
PA Adams (42001), Berks (42011), Bucks (42017), Chester (42029), Delaware (42045), Franklin (42055), Lancaster (42071), Montgomery (42091), Philadelphia (42101), York (42133)
WV Berkeley (54003)*, Hardy (54031)*, Jefferson (54037), Morgan (54065)*, Summers (54089)*
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
01 Cape Cod (01090002)+, Narragansett (01090004)+
02 Middle Delaware-Musconetcong (02040105)+, Crosswicks-Neshaminy (02040201)+, Lower Delaware (02040202)+, Schuylkill (02040203)+, Brandywine-Christina (02040205)+, Lower Susquehanna (02050306)+, South Branch Potomac (02070001)+*, Cacapon-Town (02070003)+*, Conococheague-Opequon (02070004)+, Shenandoah (02070007)+, Monocacy (02070009)+*
05 Middle New (05050002)+*
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Reproduction Comments: Lays clutch(es) of about 8-20 eggs in June-July. Eggs hatch in 10-15 weeks; hatchlings may overwinter in nest and emerge in spring. Sexually mature in 5-6 years (USFWS 1981), or not until after 9 years (see DeGraaf and Rudis 1983).
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Estuarine Habitat(s): Herbaceous wetland
Riverine Habitat(s): BIG RIVER, CREEK, Low gradient, MEDIUM RIVER, Moderate gradient, Pool
Lacustrine Habitat(s): Shallow water
Palustrine Habitat(s): HERBACEOUS WETLAND, Riparian
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Sand/dune
Special Habitat Factors: Benthic, Burrowing in or using soil, Fallen log/debris
Habitat Comments: Relatively large deep bodies of water: creeks, rivers, marshes, ponds, lakes. Sometimes in brackish water. Massachusetts population in ponds only. Soft bottom and abundant aquatic vegetation preferred. Wanders on land, fall and spring. Eggs are laid in nests dug in soft soil in open areas usually within 100 yards of water (USFWS 1981). Often nests in tilled or disturbed soil (DeGraaf and Rudis 1983, Ernst and Barbour 1972).
Adult Food Habits: Carnivore, Herbivore, Invertivore, Piscivore
Immature Food Habits: Carnivore, Herbivore, Invertivore, Piscivore
Food Comments: Adults and large subadults in Massachusetts apparently herbivorous (USFWS 1981). May be omnivorous elsewhere (Ernst and Barbour 1972).
Adult Phenology: Hibernates/aestivates
Immature Phenology: Hibernates/aestivates
Phenology Comments: Active from late March to October in Massachusetts (USFWS 1981). Spends much of day basking.
Length: 40 centimeters
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Management Summary
Monitoring Requirements: See Haskell and Pokras (1994, Herpetol. Rev. 25:11) for information on a nonlethal method of collecting blood and muscle tissue.
Population/Occurrence Delineation
Group Name: Pseudemys Turtles (Cooters)

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.
Mapping Guidance: Occurrences should include known nesting areas and documented upland travel corridors, if any.
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.
Alternate Separation Procedure: Separation distance along riverine corridors: 20 stream km. Separation distance for upland habitat: 1 km. Separation distance for other situations (e.g., mixture of upland and aquatic/wetland habitat): 5 km.
Separation Justification: Movements of most species have not been intensively studied, but available information indicates that maximum home range dimension frequently is about 1 km or less and that movements (other than nesting) occur primarily within aquatic/wetland habitats. Nesting typically occurs within 250 m of water.
In West Virginia, three males and one female P. concinna moved 574 m betwen two basking sites, and one male had a maximum observed distance traveled of 777 m (Buhlmann and Vaughan 1991). Nest sites usually are within 30 m of water (Ernst et al. 1994).
In South Carolina, 70 percent of 40 P. floridana that emigrated from a drought-impacted Carolina Bay traveled toward the nearest body of water, a beaver pond about 400 m away (Gibbons et al. 1983). In Florida, Marchand (1945) recorded cooter movements of usually a few hundred meters but up to 640 m or more. Also in Florida, Kramer (1995) determined that home range length in a spring run was up to 840 m (mean about 300 m, not including basking sites).
In a Florida spring run, home range length (including basking sites) of Pseudemys nelsoni was 10-990 m (mean 132 m in males, 207 m in females); in a lake, home range size was an order of magnitude larger (about 16-31 ha for total aquatic and terrestrial range) (Kramer 1995). Jackson and Walker (1997) recorded home range lengths of 200-600 m for P. c. suwanniensis in the nesting season.
Nesting sites of P. rubriventris may be 10-250 m from water (Ernst et al. 1994).
Despite these data, the high probability of long, undetected movements along riverine corridors suggests use of a separation distance of at least 20 km for suitable (aquatic/wetland) habitat. The nominal minimum of 1 km is used for upland habitat.

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): 1 km
Date: 23Apr2001
Author: Hammerson, G.
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 04May2005
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 20Mar1996
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

  • Browne, R. A., N. A. Haskell, C. R. Griffin, and J. W. Ridgeway. 1996. Genetic variation among populations of the redbelly turtle (PSEUDEMYS RUBRIVENTRIS). Copeia 1996:192-195.

  • DeGraaf, R. M., and D. D. Rudis. 1983a. Amphibians and reptiles of New England. Habitats and natural history. Univ. Massachusetts Press. vii + 83 pp.

  • Ernst, C. H., and R. W. Barbour. 1972. Turtles of the United States. Univ. Press of Kentucky, Lexington. x + 347 pp.

  • Graham, T. E. 1991. PSEUDEMYS RUBRIVENTRIS. Cat. Am. Amph. Rept. 510.1-510.4.

  • Iverson, J. B. 1992. A revised checklist with distribution maps of the turtles of the world. Privately printed. Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana.

  • Iverson, J. B., and T. E. Graham. 1990. Geographic variation in the redbelly turtle, Pseudemys rubriventris (Reptilia: Testudines). Ann. Carnegie Mus. 59:1-13.

  • 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.

  • Seidel, M. E. 1994. Morphometric analysis and taxonomy of cooter and red-bellied turtles in the North American genus Pseudemys (Emydidae). Chelonian Conservation and Biology 1(2):117-130.

  • Seidel, M. E., and C. H. Ernst. 1996. Pseudemys. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles 625.1-625.7.

  • Seidel, M. E., and W. M. Palmer. 1991. Morphological variation in turtles of the genus PSEUDEMYS (Testudines: Emydidae) from central Atlantic drainages. Brimleyana 17:105-135.

  • Turtle Taxonomy Working Group [van Dijk, P.P., Iverson, J.B., Shaffer, H.B., Bour, R., and Rhodin, A.G.J.]. 2012. Turtles of the world, 2012 update: annotated checklist of taxonomy, synonymy, distribution, and conservation status. In: Rhodin, A.G.J., Pritchard, P.C.H., van Dijk, P.P., Saumure, R.A., Buhlmann, K.A., Iverson, J.B., and Mittermeier, R.A. (Eds.). Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises: A Compilation Project of the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. Chelonian Research Monographs No. 5:000.243-000.328. Online. Available:

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 1981. Plymouth red-bellied turtle recovery plan.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 1981. Plymouth red-bellied turtle recovery plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 5. 13 pp.

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