The spotted turtle is found from the southern ranges of Quebec, Ontario, Maine and all the way down to Florida. Their habitat consists of swamps, bogs, fens, marshes, woodland streams, and wet pastures. A brackish stream influenced by the tide will also serve as a home. In order for a spotted turtle to survive, the area must have a soft substrate and at least some aquatic vegetation. Their optimum habitat is shallow and slow-moving waters with soft muddy soil, sedge tussocks, water lilies, sphagnum moss, and cattails. When found in areas with ducktail, their spots serve as camouflage.
The spotted turtle is a small semi-aquatic turtle that grows to a length of three to five inches upon adulthood. They have a broad, smooth, low dark-colored upper shell that ranges in color from black to a bluish black with a number of tiny yellow round spots. More spots are found on the left side of the upper shell than on the right. The spots extend from the head, to the heck and out onto the limbs. The plastron (bottom shell) is yellow or orange-yellow with a black spot on each section.
A spotted turtle’s head is black, and the upper jaw is notched, with a large orange blotch on each side of the head. Varying in size, there are several yellow bands. On the dorsal side, the turtle is black with sparse yellow spots. The skin on the ventral side may be a brighter orange, pink or red. The pigmented area color depends on their geographic location.
Differences between the male and female develop around the time of sexual maturity. A male has a tan chin, brown eyes and a long thick tail. The chin of the female is yellow with orange eyes and a shorter tail. With respect to the bottom shell, the males are concave, and the females are either flat or convex. Females grow slightly larger than males and have more spots.
Being an active hunter, the spotted turtle’s finds its prey by pointing its head into aquatic plants. They feed at temperatures above 57.6 degrees from the middle of March until September. Eating exclusively in the water, consuming plant material that includes aquatic vegetation, green algae, and at times wild cranberries. As far as animal food that includes insect larvae, worms, slugs, millipedes, spiders, crustaceans’ tadpoles, salamanders, and several genera of small fish. The spotted turtle consumes animal food either dead or alive, but always in the water.
The spotted turtle in Canada is considered federally endangered. In the United States, the Fish and Wildlife Service is currently reviewing whether to place it under the Endangered Species Act. In Indiana, the spotted turtle is listed as an endangered species, while in the Northeast, it has protective status in six New England states. In New York, it is listed as a species with special concern.
Collection for the pet trade, habitat destruction, and alteration, human impacts with cars and mowers are leading in the decline of the spotted turtle.