How much do you know about these scaly friends?
Here are some quick turtle facts:
- The turtle shell is made up of about 60 different bones.
- Scutes (large scales) cover the shell and help keep bacteria and fungi from invading the underlying bone.
- All turtles are covered with dry, scaly skin. In aquatic turtles, the scales help prevent excess water from entering the body.
- Turtles are believed to have existed on earth longer than any other group of reptiles–as long as 200 million years ago!
- Individual turtles have survived to be more than 200 years-old.
- Turtles belong to the animal kingdom, phylum Chordata (animals with backbones) and are reptiles covered by scales or horny plantes.
- Unlike humans, turtles get their body heat from outside sources like the sun meaning they are exothermic or cold-blooded.
- There are 11 species of turtles in Wisconsin. Any idea which turtle species in Wisconsin is the most abundant? It’s the painted turtle.
- Ten of Wisconsin’s 11 turtle species spend the winter under water.
- Some turtles bury themselves under the bottom while others lie on the bottom and remain motionless. Despite popular belief however, many turtles don’t actually hibernate but remain semi-active, moving about during the winter.
- Turtles are toothless and use sharp, horny beaks to grab and slice food.
- Turtles usually feed on plants or on slow-moving prey like earthworms, slugs, snails, or insect larvae.
Wisconsin has lost over half of its wetlands since European settlement and urban sprawl continues to threaten turtles in our state by eliminating their habitats. Another threat to turtles is the increasing number of medium-sized predators like free-roaming cats and dogs, raccoons, skunks, and coyotes. As a result, five of Wisconsin’s 11 turtle species are listed as endangered, threatened or of special concern.
You and your family can help protect Wisconsin’s turtles! Here’s how:
- Never bring a turtle or lizard home as a pet—leave wild animals in the wild.
- Help protect and rebuild turtle habitats by leaving fallen trees in place along shorelines and fallen trees and woody debris along the edges of prairies and in prairie open areas.
- Help keep turtles safe on roads! Be on the lookout for turtles crossing roadways, especially during the main turtle nesting season in June.
- Never let your pets run free where they can kill wildlife. Keep them on a leash.