Types Of Turtles In Florida

In Florida, there are 26 different species of freshwater turtles. If you want to keep one of them as a pet, you have a number of possibilities because they are dispersed over several ecosystems. The native turtles of Florida include a variety of mud and musk turtles, as well as diamondback terrapins, cooters, and sliders.

We’ll go through the general information and maintenance needs of each species, both native and non-native, to assist you decide which of these turtles to adopt as a pet. If you decide to go herping in search of native turtles in Florida, you may use this information as a guide.

One species of tortoise and five species of sea turtles that may be seen off the coast of Florida both call Florida home. Although sea turtles and gopher tortoises cannot be kept as pets, we will give you a brief description of each species in case you come across one in the wild.

Make careful you only adopt or purchase a captive-bred turtle when selecting a pet turtle. Native turtle populations may be badly impacted by taking them out of the wild or by releasing non-native species. Check your local regulations before purchasing, acquiring, or offering to sell any endangered animal.

Here are the 32 different turtle species that may be found in Florida, without further ado.

Florida Softshell Turtle (Apalone ferox)

The Florida softshell turtle has a variety of strange characteristics, but its long, snorkel-like snout and smooth, cartilaginous shell stand out as the most remarkable. True to its name, the dark brown shell is flat and smooth to the touch and lacks any pronounced ridges or scutes.

With a size range of 6 inches to 25+ inches from snout to tail tip, the Florida softshell is one of the biggest softshell turtle species.

This peculiar turtle prefers shallow, muddy pools of water like ponds and slow-moving streams, and is virtually entirely aquatic. In order to breathe while searching for prey while half submerged, it has a tiny nose (or while hiding from predators).

Its dark brownish-gray body color helps it blend in with the leaf litter and muddy ground. The turtle is ideally suited to an aquatic lifestyle because to its webbed feet and clawed toes.

The natural range of this species encompasses much of Florida and a portion of southern Georgia. It is an opportunistic omnivore that often consumes tiny water insects, fish, and amphibians.

Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell (Apalone spinifera aspera)

The Gulf Coast spiny softshell is an endemic species to the Carolinas, Alabama, and northern Florida. It is a subspecies of the spiny softshell (Apalone spinifera).

They have two or more black lines encircling the back of their carapace, and ring-shaped spots cover them.

Eastern Box Turtle

Eastern Box turtles spend their days scavenging for food and are active during the day. These lovely turtles, which favor grasslands, marshes, and wooded places, are mostly found in southern Florida. They have striking black shells with orange patterning.

Eastern Box turtles should be kept in enclosures that are at least 20 gallons in size for juvenile turtles and 4 feet by 18 inches in height for adults. These turtles should be kept in an outdoor cage that is comparable to their native habitats.

A basking place should be between 85°F and 88°F in temperature, with the ambient temperature in their habitat being between 75°F and 80°F. Keep the humidity at around 70%.

If maintained indoors, eastern box turtles will require both heat and UVB light. Any lights should be maintained on for a 12-hour cycle of day and night. It’s best to avoid handling these turtles if at all possible.

These turtles choose mulch and pelleted surfaces because they closely resemble their natural environment and offer sufficient depth for the turtle to burrow.

Being omnivores, eastern box turtles should consume a variety of foods, including dark greens, vegetables, and insects, worms, and mollusks for protein.

Common Snapping Turtle

In Florida, snapping turtles may be found almost everywhere.

Look for them in marshes, ponds, rivers, lakes, and slow-moving streams. They choose locations with plenty of aquatic vegetation so they may hide there and consume insects, fish, frogs, and birds.

The most notable feature of snapping turtles is their formidable jaws. Although there are no known instances of one of their bites leading to amputation, it can nonetheless result in illnesses severe enough to necessitate an amputation. In fact, snapping turtles frequently consume other turtles because of how powerful their jaws are.

Although these turtles are often calm, if they are taken out of the water, they will turn hostile. Reintroducing an angry animal to the water, where it might feel comfortable, is one of the greatest methods to calm it. I am certain that I took them off the road and back to safety by physically removing them with a huge snow shovel!

Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys Imbricata)

The sole remaining member of its genus is a giant sea turtle called the hawksbill.

These turtles have a thick, protective carapace, flipper-shaped limbs to aid in swimming, and an usually flattened body, just like the other marine turtles.

They differ from other sea turtle species, though, in that their mouth has a distinct cutting edge and a sharp, curved beak-like shape.

They have an amber-colored carapace with erratic dark and light lines running across it.

Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)

The loggerhead sea turtle’s size will probably be the first thing you notice about it. The length of its carapace alone can be 20 to 35 inches, and it frequently weighs more than 500 pounds. Some people have even been documented weighing more than 1,000 pounds!

The loggerhead sea turtle is nearly totally underwater, therefore it lacks clawed feet in favor of large, powerful flippers. The head, legs, and flippers have darker brown patches on typically light beige skin.

The shell has broad, wide scutes and is dark to reddish-brown in hue. In general, men have shorter plastrons (belly shells) and thicker tails than females.

They have a variety of possibilities for prey due to the strength and sharpness of their jaws and beaks. However, they mostly consume tiny aquatic creatures.

The geographic distribution of this species encompasses a large portion of the tropics of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. Additionally, the Mediterranean Sea contains it. It lives in estuaries that are rather shallow most of the time. However, they are incredibly agile swimmers and can dive much deeper while looking for food.

Amazingly, this enormous reptile has a life expectancy of almost 65 years! But because of human involvement and rising coastal land development, the species is presently in risk of extinction.

Florida Box Turtle

Florida Box Turtles have heads with bright yellow stripes and magnificent orange patterns on their shells that are nearly black in color. In the Florida Keys area, marshes, swamps, or woodlands make up their native habitat. Although they don’t swim much, they enjoy lying in the water.

This species thrives in Rubber Maid tubs or outdoor enclosures that provide them with protection and shade and are accented with fake or real plants. The best place to soak up the sun is on a log, slab, or rock. Although they enjoy having a water dish they can rest in, Florida Box turtles shouldn’t be able to swim in it.

Florida Box turtles, like many other reptiles, require exposure to UV light, which you may provide them by using a UVB lamp. The ideal temperature range should be between 70°F and 90°F, with a basking area between 85°F and 95°F. The ideal humidity range is between 70% and 90%.

As omnivores, Florida Box turtles should consume a variety of foods, including dark, leafy greens, various vegetables, as well as crickets, earthworms, mealworms, and mollusks for protein.

These little turtles are truly terrific pets since they tolerate handling well. However, keep in mind that it is illegal to maintain more than two Florida Box Turtles without a permission.

Alligator Snapping Turtle

Although bigger than Common Snapping Turtles, Alligator Snapping Turtles don’t bite as frequently. They like dwelling in lakes, rivers, marshes, and deeper canals.

The biggest freshwater turtle of this species may be seen in Florida!

These enormous reptiles have a maximum weight of 115 pounds and a maximum length of two feet.

The way alligator snapping turtles locate food is peculiar. They frequently lay on the bottom of a body of water and entice fish with a pink appendage that resembles a worm instead of hunting! They ambush their victim once it is near enough.

So let’s consider this in context. The power of one of these big turtles biting you would be equivalent to having a small vehicle thrown on you! They are, as you could think, very hazardous and ought never to be handled in the wild. Even highly qualified and experienced herpetologists have suffered serious bite wounds!

Florida is also home to two species that are related to alligator snapping turtles. The biggest member of its genus, the Suwannee Alligator Snapping Turtle (Macrochelys suwanniensis), has three extremely high keels on its back and a pronounced hooked beak.

Similar to the Common Snapping Turtle in appearance is the Apalachicola Alligator Snapping Turtle (Macrochelys apalachicolae).

Florida Mud Turtle (Kinosternon steindachneri)

As this piece progresses, it will become clearer and clearer how many turtles have Florida as their namesake. A prime example is the Florida mud turtle, which is found naturally in much of Central and South Florida.

The Florida mud turtle was once a subspecies of the Kinosternon subrubrum, or eastern mud turtle. However, when scientists looked at this specific turtle more attentively in 2013, they discovered it was different enough to constitute its own species. Franz Steindacher, an Austrian herpetologist, is honored by the generic name of this species.

The Florida mud turtle appears initially to be a common tiny, semi-aquatic mud or musk turtle. It is normally just 3 to 5 inches long, making it little.

Its large, rounded dark brown shell features an underside that is orange-brown in color. It can move across shallow, muddy areas of water like ponds and marshes because to its webbed feet and clawed toes.

Gulf Coast Box Turtle

The biggest of the Common Box turtle subspecies, Gulf Coast Box turtles inhabit brackish waterways, estuaries, and swamps near the Gulf of Mexico. The shells of these turtles are dark brown or black, with fluted edges, and are marked with yellow dots or stripes.

The optimal environment for keeping Gulf Coast Box turtles outside is a 4 by 8-foot cage with access to a shallow water area where they may bathe. As these turtles can be rather skittish and are not suitable for handling, logs, plants, and rocks should be supplied for some shelter.

The ambient temperature should be kept between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, with a basking place at 90 degrees, as this species enjoys warm, humid environments.

It should also be possible to get access to UVB light, either from the sun directly outside or through a UV lamp that runs on a 12-hour day/night cycle. Through misting, humidity levels should be kept between 60% and 90%.

Like many Box turtles, Gulf Coast Box turtles are omnivorous, thus they should also be given leafy vegetables like dandelions and collard greens, as well as crickets, earthworms, mealworms, and mollusks. Every two to three days, give your turtle food.

Escambia Map Turtle

The Escambia Map Turtle may be found in broad rivers with sand bottoms in a limited western region of the Florida Panhandle. It is a carnivore, and although females usually consume mussels and clams, males prefer insects or their larvae.

In the Florida Panhandle, the distribution of escambia map turtles is rather constrained. They also interbreed with the species when their ranges overlap since they are closely related to the Barbour’s Map Turtle!

The name of this species comes from the fact that they can ONLY be found in river systems that empty into Escambia Bay!

Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)

Of course, if the amazing leatherback sea turtle weren’t included, this list wouldn’t be quite complete. It often weighs well over 700 pounds and is 6 to 7 feet in length, making it the biggest species of turtle in the world (and the largest non-crocodilian reptile!). Some really huge people can weigh up to 1,500 pounds!

In addition to its enormous size, the leatherback is particularly remarkable in overall look. Its shell and skin are dark grey to black with scattered, sporadic white and beige spots. Seven lengthy, parallel ridges that run the length of its carapace are present. It lacks clawed toes in favor of long, robust, flat flippers, like the majority of other sea turtles.

The leatherback sea turtle spends almost all of its life below, coming to the surface only to breathe and lay eggs. It can dive as deep as 4,000 feet and swim at speeds more than 20 miles per hour.

Additionally, leatherback sea turtles have the capacity to last longer than 30 minutes without breathing. Despite having a wide variety of dietary alternatives, they mostly eat jellyfish and other soft, gelatinous invertebrates.

The Atlantic and Pacific Oceans make up a large portion of the leatherback’s extensive geographic range. Sadly, because the species has been highly endangered since the 1970s, this range is getting narrower. Development of coastal lands, pollution, and general human activity are the main causes of this.

Three-toed Box Turtle

Three-toed Box turtles, the smallest subspecies of the Common Box turtle, are located in Northwestern Florida near the Florida Panhandle. For these terrestrial turtles, meadows and other types of grassland are their primary habitats.

The carapaces of three-toed box turtles have high domes and are typically tan or light brown in hue. They have three rather than four claws on their rear legs, as suggested by their name. Handling of these turtles should only be done when absolutely required.

Ideally, this type of Box turtle, like the majority of them, should be housed outside in a 4 by 6 foot bespoke cage. To stop your turtle from digging out, the enclosure’s walls should contain supports dug about 10 inches into the surface.

A basking location must be between 85°F and 88°F and the ambient temperature must be between 75°F and 80°F. These turtles prefer 70 to 80 percent humidity levels. You ought to utilize a UVB light if your turtle spends its time indoors. Additionally, you have to supply a small dish of water for your specimen to soak in.

Since the three-toed box turtle is an omnivore, it should be fed both protein-rich items like insects, mollusks, and worms as well as dark leafy greens like collard greens and dandelions.

Diamond-Backed Terrapin

The ONLY freshwater turtle in Florida that can survive in salt water is the diamond-backed terrapin!

They can be found at barrier beaches, brackish streams, salt marshes, and tidal flats along the coast. Amazingly, they can also survive for long periods of time in full-strength seawater.

Even though they resemble their freshwater relatives, Diamond-Backed Terrapins have evolved to be particularly well suited to live in saltier coastal environments. Here are a few unusual ways people have access to clean drinking water, for instance.

When it rains, the freshwater that accumulates on top of the brackish or saltwater will be consumed by them.
They lean forward with their lips wide, catching the raindrops as they fall.

The Diamond-Backed Terrapin is a subspecies that has SEVEN distinct varieties. They are divided by where they are on the east coast, which stretches from New England to the Gulf of Mexico. Florida is the state with the most subspecies, with FIVE existing there! Florida is the ONLY state where you may find the Eastern Florida, Mangrove, and Ornate Diamond-Backed Terrapins.

Florida Chicken Turtle (Deirochelys reticularia chrysea)

The strangely titled Florida chicken turtle is another of Florida’s state turtles. This widespread term really refers to both the turtle’s long, bird-like neck and the rumored chicken-like flavor of its flesh.

There are three subspecies of the chicken turtle, of which this specific turtle is one. The most vibrant of the group is the Florida variety! It may be distinguished from other subspecies by the brilliant reddish-orange plastron on its back.

Its length ranges from 6 to 10 inches on average, and like most semiaquatic turtles, it has webbed, clawed feet. Typically, females are bigger than men. It has a delicate pattern of pale golden net on its dark brown carapace. Typically, its skin is greenish-brown with fine yellow stripes.

The Florida chicken turtle favors shallow, muddy bodies of water like marshes and slow-moving streams, just like the majority of other semiaquatic turtle species.

It can move around on land and in water with ease and is fairly durable. In contrast to other turtle species of a comparable size, it oddly has a very limited lifetime of approximately 20 to 25 years.