Native Turtles of Texas (with Pictures) | Turtle Owner (2024)

Table of Contents
The Native Turtles of Texas Alligator Snapping Turtle (Macroclemys temminckii) Big Bend Mud Turtle (Kinosternon hirtipes murrayi) Big Bend Slider (Trachemys gaigeae) Cagle’s Map Turtle (Graptemys caglei) Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus) Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) Desert Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata luteola) Guadalupe Spiny Softshell (Apalone spinifera guadalupensis) Midland Smooth Softshell (Apalone mutica mutica) Mississippi Map Turtle (Graptemys pseudogeographica kohnii) Mississippi Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum hippocrepis) Missouri River Cooter (Pseudemys concinna metteri) Ornate Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata) Ouachita Map Turtle (Graptemys ouachitensis) Pallid Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera pallida) Razorback Musk Turtle (Sternotherus carinatus) Red Eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) Rio Grande River Cooter (Pseudemys gorzugi) Sabine Map Turtle (Graptemys pseudogeographica sabinensis) Southern Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta dorsalis) Texas Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin littoralis) Texas Map Turtle (Graptemys versa) Texas River Cooter (Pseudemys texana) Texas Spiny Softshell (Apalone spinifera emoryi) Texas Tortoise (Gopherus berlandieri) Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) Western Chicken Turtle (Deirochelys reticularia miaria) Western Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta bellii) Western Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera hartwegi) Yellow Mud Turtle (Kinosternon flavescens) The Conservation Status Alien Species of Texas Texas State Laws Regarding Turtles What to Do If You Find a Wild Native Turtle Conclusion References

The United States is home to more turtle species than any other country in the world, almost 100 species, and subspecies. But those turtle species are not distributed evenly, so most states won’t always be home to the same turtle species, even if they are very close.

Texas is home to 30 turtle species. In this article I am going to take a closer look at each species and cover a few basic things about them, things like the appearance, lifespan, how big it can get, diet, where it lives, conservation status, and reproduction.

Quick list of the native turtles of Texas:

  • Alligator Snapping Turtle Macroclemys temminckii
  • Big Bend Mud Turtle Kinosternon hirtipes murrayi
  • Big Bend Slider Trachemys gaigeae
  • Cagle’s Map Turtle Graptemys caglei
  • Common Musk Turtle (Stinkpot) Sternotherus odoratus
  • Common Snapping Turtle Chelydra serpentina serpentina
  • Desert Box Turtle Terrapene ornata luteola
  • Guadalupe Spiny Softshell Apalone spinifera guadalupensis
  • Midland Smooth Softshell Apalone mutica mutica
  • Mississippi Map Turtle Graptemys pseudogeographica kohnii
  • Mississippi Mud Turtle Kinosternon subrubrum hippocrepis
  • Missouri River Cooter Pseudemys concinna metteri
  • Ornate Box Turtle Terrapene ornata ornata
  • Ouachita Map Turtle Graptemys ouachitensis ouachitensis
  • Pallid Spiny Softshell Apalone spinifera pallida
  • Razorback Musk Turtle Sternotherus carinatus
  • Red-eared Slider Trachemys scripta elegans
  • Rio Grande River Cooter Pseudemys gorzugi
  • Sabine Map Turtle Graptemys ouachitensis sabinensis
  • Southern Painted Turtle Chrysemys picta dorsalis
  • Texas Diamondback Terrapin Malaclemys terrapin littoralis
  • Texas Map Turtle Graptemys versa
  • Texas River Cooter Pseudemys texana
  • Texas Spiny Softshell Apalone spinifera emoryi
  • Texas Tortoise Gopherus berlandieri
  • Three-toed Box Turtle Terrapene carolina triunguis
  • Western Chicken Turtle Deirochelys reticularia miaria
  • Western Painted Turtle Chrysemys picta bellii
  • Western Spiny Softshell Apalone spinifera hartwegi
  • Yellow Mud Turtle Kinosternon flavescens flavescens

Now let’s take a closer look at the native turtles of Texas.

The Native Turtles of Texas

Quick Note: Most turtle subspecies are very similar, so besides some few differences in color it’s possible that everything else about them to be the same.

Quick Note: In this list I am also going to tell you the conservation status of the species, meaning how close they are to extinction. I will give a more in-depth explanation of this ranking works, at the end of the article, but until then I will add a picture that will let you know the basics.

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Alligator Snapping Turtle (Macroclemys temminckii)

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Description: The Alligator Snapping Turtle is usually black or dark brown, and it has a very spiky appearance. The entirety of the upper part of the shell is covered with pronounced, but not sharp, spikes. The skin is also covered with very spike-like structures. Alligator Snapping Turtle also possesses one of the snapping turtles’ distinct features, a sharp beak.

How long it can live: Between 60 and 70 years.

How big it can get: Between 15 and 26 inches. The biggest known alligator snapping turtle reached 31.5 inches.

Where it lives: The alligator snapping turtle can usually be found at the bottom of rivers, lakes, sloughs, swamps, and bayous.

Diet: Omnivorous. They usually hunt their prey, but not actively, they do this by sitting at the bottom of the lake with their mouth open, while waiting for their prey.

Conservation Status: Vulnerable

Reproduction: Nesting season is May to July. Incubation usually lasts between 70 and 100 days.

Big Bend Mud Turtle (Kinosternon hirtipes murrayi)

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Description: The Big Bend Mud Turtle has a dome-like shell. The top part of the shell is usually colored olive, brown or yellow-brown. The bottom side of the shell is usually colored yellow-brown. The skin color of the Big Bend Mud Turtle is usually the same color as the upper part of the shell, with the exception of the lower side of the head which is usually yellow-brown or yellow.

How long it can live: Between 30 and 50 years.

How big it can get: They usually reach sizes between 5 and 7 inches.

Where it lives: As the name implies Mud turtles prefer to stay in water bodies that have a soft bottom, composed of either sand or mud. So they can be usually found in lakes, swamps, marshes, and rivers.

Diet: Mud turtles are omnivorous, which means that they will eat meat, snails, fish, insects, as well as fruits, vegetables, and other kinds of vegetation.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Reproduction: The nesting period starts in May, and ends around the end of July. The incubation period is longer than that of most turtles, lasting around 100 to 110 days.

Big Bend Slider (Trachemys gaigeae)

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Description: The Big Bend Slider will usually have an upper shell color ranging from olive to dark brown, that is covered with a pattern that can be either yellow, orange, or red. The lower part of the shell will usually be yellow with a few black spots. The color of the skin is usually the same color as the upper part of the shell, and it’s covered with yellow stripes. Near the head, the Big Bend Slider also has two red spots on each side.

How long it can live: Between 20 and 30 years.

How big it can get: The size of a Big Bend Slider can vary a lot, a normal turtle can reach sizes that range between 5 and 11 inches.

Where it lives: Big Bend Sliders are often found in slow-moving streams, creeks, lakes, ponds, and marshes.

Diet: The Big Bend Slider is a herbivorous tortoise, this means that it mainly eats fruits, vegetables, and any form of vegetation that it can find.

Conservation Status: Vulnerable

Reproduction: Nesting season starts in early spring, and ends in late summer. On average, the incubation period of the eggs ranges from 70 to 80 days.

Cagle’s Map Turtle (Graptemys caglei)

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Description: The upper side of the shell is usually colored olive or brown and it has a pattern that resembles the pattern of a map. On the upper side of the shell, there is also a very pronounced vertebral keel that is colored black. The lower part of the shell is usually colored yellow and has dark-colored patterns on it. The skin of Cagle’s Map Turtle is usually dark olive or black, and it’s covered with pronounced white-colored stripes.

How long it can live: Between 30 and 50 years.

How big it can get: Males usually reach sizes between 3 and 5 inches, while females are considerably bigger, reaching sizes between 8 and 10 inches.

Where it lives: Map turtles can be found in waters that are stagnant or slow-moving, and that has a lot of vegetation. So they can be usually seen in rivers, slow-moving streams, lakes, and ponds.

Diet: Map turtles are omnivorous, so they will eat meat, insects, fruit, vegetables, aquatic vegetation, and everything else that they can find.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Reproduction: Map turtles usually nest multiple times a year from the start of the spring up until the end of the summer.

Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus)

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Description: The Common Musk Turtle has a very plain appearance with very consistent colors. The color of the shell and the skin is usually very similar and it can usually be dark brown or black. The shell has one distinct feature and that is a ridge that traverses the entire length of the shell. Another distinguishable feature of the Common Musk turtle can be found on its head in the form of two light-colored stripes.

How long it can live: Between 30 and 50 years.

How big it can get: Common Musk turtles are very small, they usually reach sizes between 3 and 4.5 inches.

Where it lives: Like most aquatic turtles, the musk turtle can be found in all minds of slow-moving and still body waters. But in general, they prefer waters that have a soft bottom, like mud or sand.

Diet: Common Musk turtles are omnivorous and feed on small aquatic and semi-aquatic animals, aquatic plants, and carrion, and any other kind of fruit or vegetable that they can find.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Reproduction: Nesting season usually starts in late May and lasts until August. The average incubation period of the eggs is 75 days.

Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)

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Description: Common Snapping Turtles can range in color from brown to black. They usually have very long legs, necks, and tails. And they have a pronounced beak-like mouth.

How long it can live: Between 30 and 50 years.

How big it can get: Between 12 and 15 inches, in rare cases, some of them can reach even 19 inches.

Where it lives: A habitat generalist, the common snapping turtle can be found in almost any body of freshwater with a muddy bottom.

Diet: They are omnivorous, which means that they eat both meat and plants. When it comes to the meat they will scavenge, or actively hunt their prey in the water.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Reproduction: Nesting season is May to July. Incubation usually lasts between 70 and 100 days.

Desert Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata luteola)

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Description: The Desert Box Turtle has a very dome-like shaped shell, that can range in color from brown to black, and it’s usually covered with a multitude of lines and spots that can range in color from yellow to orange. The lower side of the shell is usually yellow and has lines that are brown or black. The skin is usually covered in multiple yellow spots.

How long it can live: Between 50 and 100 years.

How big it can get: Most Box turtles reach sizes between 5 and 7 inches.

Where it lives: Unlike most turtles, Box turtles live on land instead of water. They can be usually be found across open woodlands as well as grasslands and meadows.

Diet: Box turtles are omnivorous, so they will eat anything that they can find, meat, insects, fruits, vegetables, and any kind of vegetation.

Conservation Status: Vulnerable

Reproduction: The nesting period takes place between May and July. The incubation period for the eggs is between 70 and 80 days.

Guadalupe Spiny Softshell (Apalone spinifera guadalupensis)

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Description: The Guadalupe Spiny Softshell Turtle has a leathery-like shell that has a round shape and it usually ranges in color from light brown to olive to dark brown. The skin of the turtle is usually a lighter shade of brown than the shell. The shell is also covered with small white spots, while the skin is covered with small black spots. One of the most distinguishable features of the Guadalupe Spiny Softshell Turtle is the snort-like snout.

How long it can live: Between 40 and 60 years.

How big it can get: In general males are considerably smaller than females. Males reach sizes between 5 and 10 inches, while females reach sizes between 9 and 20 inches.

Where it lives: Spiny Softshell turtles can be found in any aquatic habitat: lakes, rivers, reservoirs, wetlands, and marshes.

Diet: They are carnivores, so they mainly eat small aquatic animals, snails, and insects.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Reproduction: Nesting season starts in early spring and ends during the summer. The incubation period of the eggs is 80 days.

Midland Smooth Softshell (Apalone mutica mutica)

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Description: The Midland Smooth Softshell Turtle is a rather plain-looking softshell turtle. The shell lacks any distinct bumps or coloration. The color will usually range from olive-gray to dark brown. The head and limbs are olive or gray above, and light gray or cream-colored below. A light stripe bordered by black is usually present behind each eye.

How long it can live: Between 40 and 60 years.

How big it can get: In general Smooth Softshell turtles reach sizes between 6 and 13 inches.

Where it lives: They can be found in most water bodies, but they show a preference towards areas with a sandy or muddy substrate.

Diet: Smooth softshell turtles are omnivores, but they definitely prefer meat over plants, so in general they will consume meat, insects, snails, and fish, and occasionally they will eat some fruits, vegetables, and other kinds of vegetation.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Reproduction: Nesting season starts in May and ends in July. The incubation usually lasts between 70 and 100 days.

Mississippi Map Turtle (Graptemys pseudogeographica kohnii)

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Description: The Mississippi Map Turtle is usually colored, olive, brown, or black. The upper shell has a pattern that is similar to a map, hence the name Mississippi Map Turtle. On the upper part of the shell, they also have a small vertebral keel. As the Mississippi Map Turtles age the map pattern on the back, as well as the keel becomes less and less visible. The lower part of the shell is usually colored yellow. The skin of the Mississippi Map Turtle is usually covered with thin yellow lines.

How long it can live: Between 30 and 50 years.

How big it can get: Males usually reach sizes between 3 and 5 inches, while females are considerably bigger, reaching sizes between 8 and 10 inches.

Where it lives: Map turtles can be found in waters that are stagnant or slow-moving, and that has a lot of vegetation. So they can be usually seen in rivers, slow-moving streams, lakes, and ponds.

Diet: Map turtles are omnivorous, so they will eat meat, insects, fruit, vegetables, aquatic vegetation, and everything else that they can find.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Reproduction: Map turtles usually nest multiple times a year from the start of the spring up until the end of the summer.

Mississippi Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum hippocrepis)

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Description: The Mississippi Mud Turtle has an upper shell that is usually colored dark brown or black. The lower part of the shell is usually yellow with a rich mottling of brown. The color of the skin tends to be dark brown or black, with two wide and irregular yellow stripes along each side of the head and neck.

How long it can live: Between 30 and 50 years.

How big it can get: They usually reach sizes between 5 and 7 inches.

Where it lives: As the name implies Mud turtles prefer to stay in water bodies that have a soft bottom, composed of either sand or mud. So they can be usually found in lakes, swamps, marshes, and rivers.

Diet: Mud turtles are omnivorous, which means that they will eat meat, snails, fish, insects, as well as fruits, vegetables, and other kinds of vegetation.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Reproduction: The nesting period starts in May, and ends around the end of July. The incubation period is longer than that of most turtles, lasting around 100 to 110 days.

Missouri River Cooter (Pseudemys concinna metteri)

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Description: The upper shell is usually colored olive, brown, black, and it has numerous yellow lines and markings. The lower part of the shell is either plain yellow or may have some faint gray-brown markings. The skin on the head and limbs is usually brown or black with many yellow lines.

How long it can live: Between 20 and 40 years.

How big it can get: Most of them reach sizes between 8 and 12 inches, but it’s not uncommon to find females that reach sizes bigger than that, sometimes even 15 inches.

Where it lives: They generally prefer water streams, but they can also be found in lakes, ponds, and manmade environments.

Diet: In general they prefer fruits, vegetables, and other forms of vegetation over meat, but they can be occasionally seen eating insects and snails.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Reproduction: The nesting period starts in May and ends in July. On average the incubation period for the eggs lasts between 80 and 100 days.

Ornate Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata)

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Description: Like most box turtles, the Ornate Box Turtle has a very dome-like-shaped shell, that can range in color from brown to black, and it’s usually covered with a multitude of lines and spots that can range in color from yellow to orange. The skin is usually covered in multiple yellow spots.

How long it can live: Between 50 and 100 years.

How big it can get: Most Box turtles reach sizes between 5 and 7 inches

Where it lives: Unlike most turtles, Box turtles live on land instead of water. They can be usually be found across open woodlands as well as grasslands and meadows.

Diet: Box turtles are omnivorous, so they will eat anything that they can find, meat, insects, fruits, vegetables, and any kind of vegetation.

Conservation Status: Vulnerable

Reproduction: The nesting period takes place between May and July. The incubation period for the eggs is between 70 and 80 days.

Ouachita Map Turtle (Graptemys ouachitensis)

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Description: The color of the Ouachita Map Turtle is usually, olive, brown, or black. The upper shell has a pattern that is similar to a map, hence the name Ouachita Map Turtle. On the upper part of the shell, they also have a vertebral keel. As the Ouachita Map Turtles age the map pattern, as well as the keel becomes less pronounced. The lower part of the shell is usually colored yellow. The skin of the Ouachita Map Turtle is usually covered with thin yellow-white lines.

How long it can live: Between 30 and 50 years.

How big it can get: Males usually reach sizes between 3 and 5 inches, while females are considerably bigger, reaching sizes between 8 and 10 inches.

Where it lives: Map turtles can be found in waters that are stagnant or slow-moving, and that has a lot of vegetation. So they can be usually seen in rivers, slow-moving streams, lakes, and ponds.

Diet: Map turtles are omnivorous, so they will eat meat, insects, fruit, vegetables, aquatic vegetation, and everything else that they can find.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Reproduction: Map turtles usually nest multiple times a year from the start of the spring up until the end of the summer.

Pallid Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera pallida)

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Description: Pallid Spiny Softshell Turtles are usually colored grey, olive or light brown. The shape of the shell is round and it has small spikes near the edges. One defining characteristic of softshell turtles is also present on the Pallid Spiny Softshell Turtle, and that is the snorkel-like snout.

How long it can live: Between 40 and 60 years.

How big it can get: In general males are considerably smaller than females. Males reach sizes between 5 and 10 inches, while females reach sizes between 9 and 20 inches.

Where it lives: Spiny Softshell turtles can be found in any aquatic habitat: lakes, rivers, reservoirs, wetlands, and marshes.

Diet: They are carnivores, so they mainly eat small aquatic animals, snails, and insects.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Reproduction: Nesting season starts in early spring and ends during the summer. The incubation period of the eggs is 80 days.

Razorback Musk Turtle (Sternotherus carinatus)

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Description: The Razorback Musk Turtle has some very pronounced scutes that, pronounced scutes gave the Razorback Musk Turtle it’s distinctive look and name. The color of the shell can range from light grey to olive to brown to black. The color of the skin can also range a lot from individual to individual, but the two most common colors tend to be olive and dark brown.

How long it can live: Between 40 and 50 years.

How big it can get: On average Razorback Musk turtles reach sizes between 5 and 6 inches.

Where it lives: Razorback Musk turtles can be found in most water bodies that have still or slow-moving waters.

Diet: They are carnivorous, and their diet mainly consists of fish, mollusks, and snails.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Reproduction: Nesting season starts in early spring, and ends in late summer. On average, the incubation period of the eggs ranges from 90 to 110 days.

Red Eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans)

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Description: The most distinct feature of the Red Eared Slider are the red lines that can be easily seen behind the eyes, those lines can vary in color from red to orange and rarely yellow, but in most cases they are red. In general, the color of their skin and shell can range from brown to black, and their skin is covered with yellow stripes.

How long it can live: Between 30 and 40 years.

How big it can get: Red Eared Sliders usually reach sizes between 7 and 12 inches, in most cases, the females are slightly bigger than the males.

Where it lives: They are often found in slow-moving streams, creeks, lakes, ponds, and marshes with a fresh and warm water supply.

Diet: Red Eared Sliders are omnivorous, their diet usually consists of meat, fish, insects, snails, aquatic vegetation, fruits and vegetables.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Reproduction: The nesting season usually starts in March and ends in June. The average time an egg needs to incubate is 75 days.

Rio Grande River Cooter (Pseudemys gorzugi)

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Description: The color of the Rio Grande River Cooter ranges from olive to dark brown to black. The upper part of the shell has a pattern with small pulsating lines that are yellow and red. The lower part is usually yellow with red or orange lines. The skin is usually dark brown or black with white stripes.

How long it can live: Between 20 and 40 years.

How big it can get: Most of them reach sizes between 8 and 12 inches, but it’s not uncommon to find females that reach sizes bigger than that, sometimes even 15 inches.

Where it lives: They generally prefer water streams, but they can also be found in lakes, ponds, and manmade environments.

Diet: In general they prefer fruits, vegetables, and other forms of vegetation over meat, but they can be occasionally seen eating insects and snails.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Reproduction: The nesting period starts in May and ends in July. On average the incubation period for the eggs lasts between 80 and 100 days.

Sabine Map Turtle (Graptemys pseudogeographica sabinensis)

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Description: The Sabine Map Turtles have a pronounced vertebral keel on the upper side of the shell that can resemble black spikes. The rest of the upper shell is covered with a pattern that is formed out of multiple colors like: olive, gray, brown, green, white, or black. The upper part of the shell also has very pointy edges. The lower part of the shell is usually light-colored and can sometimes present color patterns. The skin of the Sabine Map Turtle is usually dark brown or black and it’s covered with white or yellow-white stripes.

How long it can live: Between 30 and 50 years.

How big it can get: Males usually reach sizes between 3 and 5 inches, while females are considerably bigger, reaching sizes between 8 and 10 inches.

Where it lives: Map turtles can be found in waters that are stagnant or slow-moving, and that has a lot of vegetation. So they can be usually seen in rivers, slow-moving streams, lakes, and ponds.

Diet: Map turtles are omnivorous, so they will eat meat, insects, fruit, vegetables, aquatic vegetation, and everything else that they can find.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Reproduction: Map turtles usually nest multiple times a year from the start of the spring up until the end of the summer.

Southern Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta dorsalis)

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Description: The Southern Painted Turtle has an olive, dark brown, or black upper shell that presents a very visible red, orange or yellow line that traverses the entire length of the shell. The lower side of the shell is usually plain yellow, but in some cases, there can be small colored spots. The skin is usually dark brown or black with yellow, orange, or red lines.

How long it can live: Between 20 and 30 years.

How big it can get: Most Painted turtles reach sizes between 5 and 7 inches.

Where it lives: All Painted turtles subspecies prefer to live in freshwater, and they can be usually found in slow-moving rivers, ponds, and lakes.

Diet: Painted turtles are omnivorous, which means that they will eat fruits, vegetables as well as meat.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Reproduction: Nesting season starts in March and ends in June. The amount of time it takes the eggs to hatch is around 80 days.

Texas Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin littoralis)

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Description: The Texas Diamondback Terrapin usually has a dark brown or olive-colored upper shell, that is covered with small yellow or light brown spots. The lower side of the shell is usually yellow or light brown. The skin of the Texas Diamondback Terrapin is usually light grey and it’s covered with numerous small black spots.

How long it can live: Between 25 and 35 years.

How big it can get: males usually reach sizes between 4 and 6 inches, females reach sizes between 5 and 8 inches.

Where it lives: Diamondback terrapins can usually be found near brackish waters, and in coastal salt marshes.

Diet: Diamondback terrapins are carnivores, so their diet is mostly made out of meat, fish, insects, and other small animals.

Conservation Status: Vulnerable

Reproduction: Nesting season is between April and July, the incubation period usually lasts between 80 and 90 days.

Texas Map Turtle (Graptemys versa)

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Description: The color of the upper part of the shell can range from green to olive to brown, the upper part of the shell is also covered with a pater formed of yellow pulsing lines that form a pattern similar to that of a map. On the upper part, you can also find a vertebral keel that gives the Texas Map Turtle a spiky appearance. The lower side of the shell is usually colored in yellow and has a few black lines. The color of the skin can also range from green to olive to brown, and it’s covered with yellow stripes.

How long it can live: Between 30 and 50 years.

How big it can get: Males usually reach sizes between 3 and 5 inches, while females are considerably bigger, reaching sizes between 8 and 10 inches.

Where it lives: Map turtles can be found in waters that are stagnant or slow-moving, and that has a lot of vegetation. So they can be usually seen in rivers, slow-moving streams, lakes, and ponds.

Diet: Map turtles are omnivorous, so they will eat meat, insects, fruit, vegetables, aquatic vegetation, and everything else that they can find.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Reproduction: Map turtles usually nest multiple times a year from the start of the spring up until the end of the summer.

Texas River Cooter (Pseudemys texana)

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Description: The color of the Texas River Cooter is usually dark brown or black. The upper part of the shell presents no distinct color patterns. The lower side of the shell is usually colored in yellow and black, which color is predominant can vary from individual to individual. The skin is colored dark brown or black and it’s covered with yellow stripes.

How long it can live: Between 20 and 40 years.

How big it can get: Most of them reach sizes between 8 and 12 inches, but it’s not uncommon to find females that reach sizes bigger than that, sometimes even 15 inches.

Where it lives: They generally prefer water streams, but they can also be found in lakes, ponds, and manmade environments.

Diet: In general they prefer fruits, vegetables, and other forms of vegetation over meat, but they can be occasionally seen eating insects and snails.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Reproduction: The nesting period starts in May and ends in July. On average the incubation period for the eggs lasts between 80 and 100 days.

Texas Spiny Softshell (Apalone spinifera emoryi)

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Description: Like most softshell turtles the TexasCoast Spiny Softshell Turtle has a very flat appearance. The color of the shell and skin is usually is olive-colored or dark green with multiple small white spots. It also has bumpy projections beginning at the front edge of the carapace and going partway down the center of its shell. Located along the bottom edge of the carapace are three lines that follow the edge of the shell going back towards its’ head.

How long it can live: Between 40 and 60 years.

How big it can get: In general males are considerably smaller than females. Males reach sizes between 5 and 10 inches, while females reach sizes between 9 and 20 inches.

Where it lives: Spiny Softshell turtles can be found in any aquatic habitat: lakes, rivers, reservoirs, wetlands, and marshes.

Diet: They are carnivores, so they mainly eat insects, snails and small aquatic animals.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Reproduction: Nesting season starts in early spring and ends during the summer. The incubation period of the eggs is 80 days.

Texas Tortoise (Gopherus berlandieri)

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Description: The Texas Tortoise has a very bland appearance. One of the few easily recognizable characteristics of the Texas Tortoise is the pronounced edge of the shell. Other than that, the shell is usually brown with a few yellow spots, while the skin tends to have a slightly greyer tone.

How long it can live: Between 40 and 50 years.

How big it can get: Texas tortoises generally reach sizes between 8 and 12 inches.

Where it lives: Texas tortoises can be found in the scrub and brushlands of Texas, preferring habitats with sandy, well-drained soils.

Diet: They are herbivorous, their diet usually consists of grass and cactuses.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Reproduction: Nesting season starts in early spring, and ends in late summer. On average, the incubation period of the eggs ranges from 85 to 115 days.

Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina)

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Description: The Eastern Box Turtles have a very dome-like shaped shell that ranges in color from brown to black. Besides the shape of the shell, the other most recognizable element is the pattern of the shell and skin, the pattern of the Eastern Box turtles can vary from individual to individual but it can usually be described as a lot of spots or blobs, that are colored yellow, red or orange.

How long it can live: Between 50 and 100 years.

How big it can get: Most Box turtles reach sizes between 5 and 7 inches.

Where it lives: Unlike most turtles, Box turtles live on land instead of water. They can be usually be found across open woodlands as well as grasslands and meadows.

Diet: Box turtles are omnivorous, so they will eat anything that they can find, meat, insects, fruits, vegetables, and any kind of vegetation.

Conservation Status: Vulnerable

Reproduction: The nesting period takes place between May and July. The incubation period for the eggs is between 70 and 80 days.

Western Chicken Turtle (Deirochelys reticularia miaria)

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Description: The Western Chicken Turtle has a very oval-shaped shell. The top part of the shell is usually olive or dark brown, with a very faint lightly colored pattern. The lower part of the shell is usually colored light brown or yellow. The skin is usually dark brown or black and it’s covered with green-yellow or yellow stripes.

How long it can live: Between 15 and 30 years.

How big it can get: Most females are slightly larger than males, but overall chicken turtles reach sizes between 5 and 10 inches.

Where it lives: Chicken turtles can be found in canals, marshes, cypress, ponds, and other bodies of still or sluggish water. They are frequently found in the sandhills.

Diet: They are omnivorous, which means that they will eat meat, fish, snails, insects, as well as fruits, vegetables, and all kinds of vegetation.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Reproduction: Nesting season starts in early spring, and ends in late summer. On average, the incubation period of the eggs ranges from 75 to 90 days.

Western Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta bellii)

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Description: The color of the Western Painted Turtles usually ranges from dark olive to black. The shell also has some distinct markings on the edges that can range in color from red, orange or yellow, and any combination of them. The lower side of the shell is usually red and has has one or multiple dark markings in the center. The skin is usually covered with yellow stripes.

How long it can live: Between 20 and 30 years.

How big it can get: Most Painted turtles reach sizes between 5 and 7 inches.

Where it lives: All Painted turtles subspecies prefer to live in freshwater, and they can be usually found in slow-moving rivers, ponds, and lakes.

Diet: Painted turtles are omnivorous, which means that they will eat fruits, vegetables as well as meat and insects.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Reproduction: Nesting season starts in March and ends in June. The amount of time it takes the eggs to hatch is around 80 days.

Western Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera hartwegi)

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Description: The Western Spiny Softshell Turtle has a leathery-like shell that has a round shape and it usually ranges in color from light brown to dark brown. The skin of the turtle is usually a lighter shade of brown than the shell. One of the most distinguishable features of the Western Spiny Softshell Turtle is the snort-like snout.

How long it can live: Between 40 and 60 years.

How big it can get: In general males are considerably smaller than females. Males reach sizes between 5 and 10 inches, while females reach sizes between 9 and 20 inches.

Where it lives: Spiny Softshell turtles can be found in any aquatic habitat: lakes, rivers, reservoirs, wetlands, and marshes.

Diet: They are carnivores, so they mainly eat small aquatic animals, snails, and insects.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Reproduction: Nesting season starts in early spring and ends during the summer. The incubation period of the eggs is 80 days.

Yellow Mud Turtle (Kinosternon flavescens)

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Description: Yellow Mud Turtles have a dome-like shell that is usually colored olive, dark brown, or black. The lower part of the shell is usually colored yellow, hence the name Yellow Mud Turtle. The color of the skin is usually the same color as the upper part of the shell.

How long it can live: Between 30 and 50 years.

How big it can get: They usually reach sizes between 5 and 7 inches.

Where it lives: As the name implies Mud turtles prefer to stay in water bodies that have a soft bottom, composed of either sand or mud. So they can be usually found in lakes, swamps, marshes, and rivers.

Diet: Mud turtles are omnivorous, which means that they will eat meat, snails, fish, insects, as well as fruits, vegetables, and other kinds of vegetation.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Reproduction: The nesting period starts in May, and ends around the end of July. The incubation period is longer than that of most turtles, lasting around 100 to 110 days.

The Conservation Status

The conservation status of a species shows how close a species is to extinction. When a species gets its status there are a lot of factors taken into consideration, not only the number of individuals still leaving.

Even if at the moment there are a lot of individuals of a species, there can be some changes in their environment that will drastically affect the species. For example, the plastic in the water is greatly impacting sea turtles in a negative way.

There are a lot of systems that track the conservation status of a species, but the most well-known and used is the one I used in this article, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. With this system species are classifiedinto nine groups set through criteria such as rate of decline, population size, area of geographic distribution, and degree of population and distribution fragmentation. Out of the nine classifications, two of them basically mean that there is not enough data on the species, so you will usually see only seven possible statuses instead of nine.

Here is a list that explains what every status means:

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  • Extinct (EX) – No known living individuals
  • Extinct in the wild (EW) – Known only to survive in captivity, or as a naturalized population outside its historic range
  • Critically endangered (CR) – Extremely high risk of extinction in the wild
  • Endangered (EN) – High risk of extinction in the wild
  • Vulnerable (VU) – High risk of endangerment in the wild
  • Near threatened (NT) – Likely to become endangered in the near future
  • Least concern (LC) – Lowest risk; does not qualify for a higher risk category. Widespread and abundant taxa are included in this category.
  • Data deficient (DD) – Not enough data to make an assessment of its risk of extinction
  • Not evaluated (NE) – Has not yet been evaluated against the criteria.

Alien Species of Texas

The turtle species that I listed above are known as native species, but there can be other turtle species that live in that area that are not native, those species are called alien species.

Alien species are species that are not native to an area, but they still live there. Those species are usually brought to that region by humans. So a certain state might be home to 10 turtle species, but only 5 of them can be native.

Alien species can be added to an area to help with certain ecological problems, or by mistake. Turtles can do a lot of good things to an area, they can keep certain insect populations under control, they can eat the overwhelming vegetation, of a lake, that got out of control, and there are a lot of other beneficial things that they can do.

It’s also possible that some unknowing person decided to release a few turtles into the wild. If those turtles manage to reproduce, they can easily start a new alien species in a new area. Overall I strongly suggest you not do this, it can be very dangerous for the ecosystem and for the turtles as well. If you want to know more reasons why you shouldn’t do this, you should read my article: Can Pet Turtle Survive in the Wild? In this article, I explore all the possible outcomes of this situation.

Texas State Laws Regarding Turtles

Every state in the US has different laws regarding native turtles and turtles in general. Most of those rules are generally designed to protect turtles, so even if they seem a little restrictive, they are there for a good reason. Texas has its own set of laws that are different from any other state. Since a lot of those laws are about the native species I strongly suggest you visit this interactive map that will point you to an article on this site that explains as simply as possible the state laws in Texas regarding turtles, tortoises, and terrapins.

What to Do If You Find a Wild Native Turtle

What you can do if you find a native wild turtle really depends on your intentions. If you want to take a few photos from a distance, you can definitely do that. If you want to touch the turtle you can usually do that, but you have to take a few cautionary measures.

You have to remember that most wild animals can carry bacteria, and since turtles spend a lot of time in water those bacteria can be a little more dangerous. So if you touch a turtle make sure that you have some wet wipes near you, if you don’t you should probably avoid touching it. But if you still want to, at least try not to put your hands near your face after you touched the turtle.

The most important thing that you have to watch out for when interacting with a wild turtle is the turtle trying to bite you. Generally, turtles are peaceful creatures, but if they think that they are in danger and they have no way of escaping, then they will definitely try to bite you. To prevent this make sure that you don’t let it too close to your toes (if they are exposed), or to your fingers. If you want to pick up a turtle you should catch it by the sides and keep your hands above or below it, never in front of its mouth.

If you want to feed the turtle, you can definitely do that, that would actually be great, but make sure that you are feeding it the right thing, some foods can be very dangerous to turtles, to find out which food items are good and which are bad you can always check out this article where you will also find a few food items lists: What Do Turtles Eat? ( Including Food Lists )

If you want to take the turtle home as a pet, you first have to make sure that it’s legal to do so. Most states, including Texas, have laws that protect wild native turtles. You can check out the laws of Texas on this page: Turtle State Laws.

If it’s winter or close to winter there is a chance that you can find a hibernating turtle. When turtles hibernate, they enter a very profound sleep which allows them to conserve energy. They generally do this because during cold seasons there is little to no food available to them, and because there is no heat to allow them to heat up their body ( turtles are unable to produce their own body heat). If during a cold season you find a turtle that is hibernating, usually the best thing that you can do is to leave it to hibernate peacefully. Usually, turtles know how to choose a good spot to hibernate, so they are probably just fine. If you want to know more about turtle hibernation, I’ve written a more in-depth article that covers the subject, In this article, I cover why turtles hibernate, how hibernation takes place, how aquatic turtles hibernate, how land turtles hibernate, how sea turtles hibernate, what is brumation, and many other important and interesting things about hibernation: Do Turtles Hibernate?

Conclusion

This article should cover every basic thing about the native turtles of Texas. But if you have a question about something that you couldn’t find in the article you should leave a comment, I will do my best to answer it as soon as possible.

If you want to know more facts about turtles you can always check out the category: Turtle Facts. Or if you are a turtle owner and you want to know more about how to properly take care of a turtle or a tortoise you can always check the Care Guides Section or the Recommended Products Section.

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