Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata)

Life History & Michigan History

Identification: Carapace smooth, black, covered with scattered round yellow spots. Plastron without a hinge. Head black with yellow or orange spots and blotches. Lower jaw of male is brown or black; the female's is yellow or orange.

Spotted Turtle
Photo © Jim Harding

Adult carapace length: 3.5 to 5 inches (9 to 12.7 cm).

Habitat: Bogs or boggy ponds, fens, sphagnum seepages, and grassy marshes. Prefer shallow, clean water with mud bottom, clumps of sedge or marsh grass.

Habits: A cold tolerant species that becomes active and mates early in spring; often inactive or dormant in hot weather. Begins to decrease activity when water temperatures cool to 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Enters hibernation in muskrat burrows or loafs through the winter on the bottom of pools with flowing water. Has the ability to breathe through the skin when under water. Gill-like tissues filter oxygen from the water directly into blood.  Eats small animals (e.g., insects, worms, snails, slugs, crayfish, etc.), plants, and fruit.

Reproduction: In June, female lays 2 to 7 oval, soft shelled eggs in a sunny location within a cavity dug in soil or plant debris. Incubation takes 45 to 83 days, but hatchlings may not emerge until the following spring. Hatchlings usually have one spot in each carapace scute but are occasionally spotless.

Range and Status: Rare in southern and western Lower Peninsula. Threatened by wetland drainage and collecting. Protected by Michigan law as a threatened species.

You Can Help

  • Reduce chemical applications to land surfaces.
  • Protect wetlands by maintaining a shoreline shelterbelt.
  • Learn more about amphibians and reptiles and share this information with family and friends.
  • Do not collect wild turtles as pets. Enjoy them in their wild habitats.

Non-DNR Links

Clemmys guttata (University of Michigan, Museum of Zoology)

Related Documents
Spotted Turtle Occurrences Map PDF icon