Livin’ that turtle life

There are several species of turtles that make the Plateau their home, the most common are Snapping and Box turtles.

Other species include Painted turtles that are found in a few local areas, and Bog turtles that are rare and federally threatened, said Kyle Pursel, Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust Stewardship Coordinator.

A turtle swims around the lily pads at the Highlands Biological Station.

“The rivers off the Plateau have other turtle species, but the steep nature of the Plateau and smaller size of our rivers has kept them largely out of our area,” said Pursel. 

A major difference between Snapping and Box turtles are that Snapping turtles can be found in most any body of water, while Box turtles live on land in forests and fields. 

When encountering a turtle, its best to leave it alone.

If you find yourself strolling through the Highlands Biological Station and see some turtles in or around Lindenwood Lake, chances are they’re Snapping turtles.

Pursel said Snappers are omnivores and will eat most anything they can grab, primarily aquatic vegetation, but occasionally they will catch something living. Box turtles mostly eat fruit, fungi, and bugs. 

Turtles on the Plateau commonly include Box and Snapping turtles.

He added they come out to feed any time they’re awake, and some turtles are territorial.

“Box turtles form home ranges that they stick with for life,” said Pursel. “If you remove a box turtle from its home range, it will wander until it makes it back or dies trying, so please don’t remove box turtles from the wild and bring them home.”

If you stumble upon a turtle out on the trail, Pursel said it’s best to leave it be.

“Best not to feed any wildlife,” he said. “Snapping turtles have a very-powerful bite, so one is best to leave them alone and watch from a distance. Don’t take Box turtles home because you are basically killing them. 

Most species of turtle on the Plateau mate during spring.

Most turtles mate in the spring, but sometimes there can be a fall bout of mating. Turtles build nests on dry land, usually in a relatively sunny area. For aquatic turtles, this will be near water, said Pursel. And several species of turtles can live for decades.

“Turtles are some of the longest-lived animals,” said Pursel. “Some tortoise species can live well over a hundred years.”

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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