The wood turtle once ranged widely across eastern landscapes characterized by meandering cobble-bottom streams and their surrounding fields and forests. Neither strictly aquatic nor terrestrial -- it lives both on land and in water -- the wood turtle is vulnerable to loss of both types of habitat. In addition to habit loss and fragmentation, wood turtles face threats from agricultural machinery, invasive plants in nesting habitat, road-crossing mortality, degraded water quality, disease, and illegal collection for the black market pet trade.
Facing substantial declines over the last century, wood turtles have been petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will review the species status by 2023 to make a listing determination. The wood turtle is designated as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) in the State Wildlife Action Plans of all 17 states in which they occur, and is considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The Service is working with partners on a variety of proactive measures to help the wood turtle, from habitat restoration to headstarting -- a conservation technique in which hatchling turtles most vulnerable to predation are temporarily removed from the wild, in hopes of improving survival upon release months later.
In 2021, the Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program awarded a nearly $1 million Competitive State Wildlife Grant to Northeast states to help them continue years of scientific collaboration to address the range-wide decline of the wood turtle.
Location in Taxonomic Tree
Wood turtles are primarily found near the forested streams in which they hibernate during the winter. They will readily leave the water and move to open grasslands, barrens, and sandy shores for nesting and foraging, particularly during the spring.
Land on which the natural dominant plant forms are grasses and forbs.
A dense growth of trees and underbrush covering a large tract.
A natural body of running water.
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