Three cheers for Florida turtles. The state ranks as the most diverse turtle state in the United States and also as one of the turtle diversity hot spots around the world.
Ample freshwater areas and the temperate climate of the northern part of the state explains much of the Florida turtles diversity story. On any given warm day, a trip down the Suwanee River, for example, provides tourists with views of dozens of basking water turtles occupying fallen trees and branches around every river bend.
Add the sea turtles that nest along Florida beaches and turtle fans can find a species or two to photography almost every day of the year. Here’s a quick run down of the Florida turtles, not including the sea turtles.
Florida Snapping Turtles (Chelydridae)
Two snapping turtles can be found in florida. Alligator Snapping turtles have a limited range in the panhandle, east to the Suwannee River. Common Snapping Turtles occur throughout the state. The picture shows a common snapping turtle.
Florida Mud Turtles (Kinosternidae)
Four species of Mud turtles and Musk turtles can also be found in most areas of Florida. They are best known as small (less than six inch shells), non-descript turtles. In addition to size as a key identification trait, the stripes along the shell of the Striped Mud Turtle represents a good field identification clue.
- Striped Mud Turtle
- Eastern Mud Turtle
- Loggerhead Musk Turtle
- Common Musk Turtle or Stinkpot
Florida Water Turtles
Most people associate turtles with the family Emydidae, the fresh water turtles. Florida counts thirteen species, listed below. Most of these species can be spotted in river and other wetland areas in the panhandle and the northern areas of the state. Fans of Florida turtles need not fret. Five of the species can be found in most areas throughout the state. The picture at the top of the page shows the Easambia Map Turtle, a resident of the Panhandle. The picture at the top of this section shows the Eastern Chicken Turtle.
- Southern Painted Turtle (Non-native)
- Spotted Turtle
- Chicken Turtle – throughout state
- Barbour’s Map Turtle – Panhandle
- Escambia Map Turtle – Panhandle
- False Map Turtle (Non-native)
- Diamondback Terrapin – coastal areas on both sides of state
- River Cooter – north
- Florida Cooter – throughout state
- Florida Redbelly Turtle – throughout state
- Eastern Box Turtle – throughout state
- Red-eared Slider (Non-native) – limited throughout state
- Yellowbelly Slider – North
Florida Tortoises (Testudinidae)
The Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus), pictured, inhabits sandy soil areas in the Southeastern United States from Florida to the eastern parts of Louisiana. They live year round in large burrows, often measuring thirty feet in length. During the day they emerge to bask in the sun and forage for food, mostly plant life.
The western population population are federally listed as threatened, with habitat loss cited as the cause of declining populations. Florida also lists them as threatened.
Florida Turtles: Softshells Family (Trionychidae)
Softshells are fairly large turtles that inhabit most of the same waters as their hard shell relatives. With the exception of some areas in the panhandle, where two separate Gulf Coast softshell species live, most residents and visitors will see the very common Florida Softshell turtle, as shown in the picture.
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