Types of Turtles

Visitors to local ponds, rivers or coast lines often cross paths with one or more of the local turtle population. Due primarily to their popularity as pets, the Red-eared Slider in the video greets many pond visitors because pet owners have historically released them into local ponds. Their aggressive nature often translates into their pushing out local turtle species from their territory.

When it comes to turtle counting, no one beats The Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group at the IUCN. Their recently published revised taxonomy of the types of turtles that inhabit much of the world consists of 454 separate turtles (317 species and 137 subspecies). North American turtles cover six of the families and fifty-five separate species, with species diversity reaching its highest in the Southeast.

Depending on the area, native turtle or tortoise species confronts challenges due in large part to habitat loss and or water degradation. This review highlights some of the types of turtles native to North America along with the general challenges confronting them.

For instance, start with the plight of Map Turtles. All twelve species of Map Turtles were recently listed in CITES Appendix III, meaning cross border trade in these species requires a permit. Two snapping turtle species (family Chelydridae) swim North American waters, the Common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) and the Alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii). It's also listed on CITES Appendix III.

The pictures and text in the carousel provide additional information on additional turtles.

Pet Turtles

Not too long ago, the idea of owning a pet turtle meant little more than going to a local store and purchasing a small Red-eared Slider, along with a small plastic container as its living space.

Those days ended in the 1970s when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibited the distribution and sale of baby turtles with shells four inches in length or less after a quarter million infants and small children were diagnosed with having turtle-associated salmonellosis.

Since that time, change has remained a constant in the pet turtle industry. For one, it is now a global industry, with collectors demanding many of the world's turtle species for private enjoyment. Coupled with the global turtle food industry, the global turtle pet industry has contributed to declines in world wide turtle populations.

Tips for being a responsible turtle owner starts with some turtle psychology. Generally speaking, turtles are loners that do not enjoy human company and do not enjoy being held. Beware of getting a pet turtle for a child if the child is looking for a playmate. Dogs would be a better choice.

Once the decision to raise turtles is made, the task turns to identifying the types of turtles best suited to the owners. As with other pets, turtles need a proper habitat and diet in order to thrive. In most cases, turtle hobbyists can easily meet these needs by caring for local species. Box turtle species, for example, are native to many areas in North America. Caring for them can be as easy as landscape renovation or building a state of the art backyard enclosure to suit their needs. Turtle habitat needs reflect their basic physiology. As with all reptiles, they are cold-blooded animals that bask in the sun as a way to regulate their body temperature. Whether placed in an indoor or outdoor enclosure, pet turtles need a place to bask as well as a place to hide and rest.

Turtle dietary habits range from species to species, with some being carnivores (meat eating only), and others being herbivores (plant eating only). Still other turtles are omnivores (they eat what's available in their environment).

Finally, responsible turtle owners need to be aware of local pet laws. State law varies with respect to which species of turtles are allowed to be sold or kept as pets.

© 2007-2014 Patricia A. Michaels

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