FWS Focus


ESA status: under review (April 2015) 

The range of the western pond turtle extends from the Puget Sound lowlands in Washington through western Oregon and California, south to Baja California. This aquatic turtle lives in streams, ponds, lakes, and permanent and ephemeral wetlands. Pond turtles spend most of their lives in water, but they also require terrestrial habitats for nesting.

Male has a lighter throat than the female; tail is much longer than that of female with cloaca extending past end of shell, whereas cloaca of female does not extend past end of shell; shell usually flatter and less marked than a female's, with underside concave.

The coloration of the western pond turtle ranges from brown to black on the carapace (the upper shell), with lighter marbling visible close up. The plastron (the lower shell) is black and yellow. The head and legs are dark with possible yellow markings (but not stripes like the painted turtle). Adult pond turtles range from 15-20 cm (6-8 inches) in length and weigh 448-1100 g (1-2.4 pounds).

Western Pond turtles are omnivorous. They eat a variety of insects, tadpoles, frog eggs, snails, leeches, aquatic beetles, dragonfly larvae and fish. Plant foods include filamentous algae, lily pods, tule and cattail roots.

Female pond turtles usually reach sexual maturity around 10-15 years of age. Males mature quicker at 8-12 years. Mating in the wild takes place in the spring and sometimes in the fall.

Nesting occurs from late May until the middle of July. Females find a suitable site, usually with dry soil, sparse vegetation and a southern exposure. The female digs a hole for the nest - first by softening the soil with urine and then scooping out the soil using her hind feet, one after the other.

Once the site is prepared, she deposits a clutch of 3 to 13 eggs. After laying the eggs, the hole is filled with a mixture of vegetation and dirt to provide an air space, then covered with wet soil to keep the eggs in a humid environment. This slow process can take anywhere from two to four hours. The eggs incubate naturally underground for 90-130 days, depending on summer temperatures.

The western pond turtle lives up to 50 years, but reproduces relatively slowly. Females take an average of 10 years to reach sexual maturity and when mature, lay only six to 10 eggs a year. As a result, pond turtle populations can decline rapidly with the loss of only a few adults. (source: WDFW)

Populations of western pond turtles are in decline due to: disease, upland and aquatic habitat alterations and destruction, in addtion to the introduction of predators. The biggest threat to the species is the bullfrog and introduced warm fresh water fish, such as bass. Both prey on small juvenile turtles. The western pond turtle (Clemmys marmorata) is listed by Washington State as an endangered species. The species is not listed under the federal Endangered Species Act

Scientific Name

Actinemys marmorata
Common Name
Western Pond Turtle
Pacific Pond Turtle
Northern Western Pond Turtle
FWS Category

Location in Taxonomic Tree

Identification Numbers



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