Turtles are commonly found in North Carolina, from the mountains to the coast. There are 21 species of turtles in North Carolina. Some species are endangered, and others are the largest in the world. Some species migrate to different parts of the world to build nests while others build nests on North Carolina's coasts and on the banks of rivers.
There are four different turtles in the Cheloniidae classification. These include the Loggerhead turtle, the Green turtle, the Atlantic Hawksbill turtle and the Atlantic Ridley turtle. All four of these turtles are saltwater turtles. Loggerhead turtles are a threatened species. The Green turtle is also a threatened species and often migrates long distances. The Atlantic Hawksbill is listed as endangered because it is hunted for its shell. It is named for its beak-shaped mouth. The Atlantic Ridley sea turtle is the most endangered sea turtle in the world.
Leatherback, Snapping and Spiny Soft-shell Turtles
The Leatherback turtle can grow to over five feet long. Its shell is not hard like that of other turtles, a quality that gives the Leatherback turtle its name. The Leatherback is an ocean turtle. Snapping turtles are very common; they are freshwater turtles. There are different subspecies of the Spiny Soft-shell turtle, two of which live in North Carolina. The Gulf Coast and Eastern spiny softshell turtle both live in North Carolina. These turtles are usually freshwater turtles.
Spotted, Painted and Chicken Turtle
The Spotted turtle is can be found in eastern North Carolina. Its shell is very dark, with yellow spots. Many people collect Spotted turtles for pets, and this has put this turtle on the threatened species list. The Painted turtle gets its name from the distinctive red, yellow and black colors on its shell. Painted turtles are the only reptiles besides the diamondback turtle that will freeze during the winter and thaw in the spring. Chicken turtles can be identified by the horizontal and vertical stripes on their limbs.
Bog, Yellowbelly Slider and Diamondback Terrapin Turtles
The Bog turtle is found in western North Carolina. It usually buries itself in the mud. This species prefers wetland areas in the mountains. The Yellowbelly Slider is easily identified by its bright yellow belly. It can be found in the eastern half of the state and is a common aquarium pet. Diamondback terrapin turtles are mainly found in marshes and coastal areas. Even though they are primarily a saltwater turtle, they have been found in freshwater.
River Cooter, Florida Cooter and Redbelly Turtle
The River Cooter turtle is found in the eastern half of North Carolina. The most common way to tell the River Cooter apart from its relative the Florida Cooter turtle is habitat. The River Cooter prefers rivers and streams, but the Florida Cooter turtle prefers lakes and marshes. Like the River Cooter, the Florida Cooter is also found in the eastern part of North Carolina. The Redbelly turtle is only found in the northeastern corner of the state. The Redbelly, River Cooter and Florida Cooter are all known to interbreed. Redbelly turtles prefer either still or slow-moving bodies of water.
Eastern Box Turtle, Striped and Eastern Mud Turtle
The Eastern Box turtle is a very colorful turtle that can be found across North Carolina. It will eat almost anything it can. Box turtles prefer forested habitats. The Striped Mud turtle is found on the eastern half on the state. These turtles are very small and are only three to four inches long. Eastern Mud turtles are not good swimmers. They are found in most of North Carolina, except the western half of the state. These turtles are usually mistaken for snapping turtles.
Stripeneck Muck Turtle and Common Musk Turtle
The Stripeneck Musk turtle is not very common in North Carolina. It is only found along the northwestern border of the state in two counties. The Stripeneck turtle is common in rivers and streams. The Common Musk turtle can be found all across North Carolina. The Common Musk turtle is nicknamed "stinkpot" because it secretes a musky smell from its anal glands if it is threatened. This turtle also bites when first picked up.