Critter Corner - River Cooter
(Pseudemys concinna)

DID YOU KNOW:

River cooters, which are aquatic turtles, are often seen resting in the sun on logs, stumps or rocks.  River cooters are nine to 12 inches long and may be confused with red-eared sliders, another aquatic turtle species.

EATING HABITS:

River cooters are mostly vegetarian, eating many different kinds of water plants.  They may also eat mussels, crayfish, snails and insects living in the water.  They look for food actively in early morning and later afternoon.  Turtles tear their food with their tough beaks; they do not have teeth.

 

THE YOUNG:

Mom cooter lays eggs in late May through June.  The eggs have soft, pale pink leathery shells that are about 1 1/2 inches long.  She may lay up to 20 eggs in a hole she digs in loose soil or sand the sun shines upon.  This nest is usually only a few feet from the water.  The young turtles, looking like miniature adults, hatch out of their eggs in late August or September and head immediately for the water.

HABITAT (HOME):

River cooters live in rivers or swampy, marshy pools.  They are also found in some large man-made lakes.  Their range includes southern Missouri, southeastern Kansas and southeastern states from here to Florida.  The populations are declining throughout the area because of pollution and habitat destruction.  They are endangered in some states.

DEFENSIVE HABITS:

During the warm months, cooters spend a lot of time basking (sunning) on logs in the water, but quickly slide into the water when they are startled or threatened by danger.  To survive the winter, cooters, like all turtles in our area, hibernate underground.

UNUSUAL FACTS:

  • Sometimes so many cooters want to use the same basking spot that  they climb on top of each other into stacks of two or three.

  • Different subspecies of cooters live throughout the southeastern part of the united states.  Scientists are still studying this group of aquatic turtles to be able to tell the differences between the species.

 

To learn more about the river cooter

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(Photo credits: 2nd from top, Mo Dept of Conservation, Cooter on log, www.NOAA.org, all others from www.chelonia.org)