IUCN threat status:

Endangered (EN)

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Biology

Upon emerging from winter hibernation, which generally takes place at the bottom of shallow streams and rivers (8), this diurnal species spends much of its day basking in the sunshine (6) (11). Wood turtles are omnivorous, foraging for a variety of plants and animals both in and out the water, including leaves, flowers, berries, fungi, slugs, snails, worms and insects, as well as opportunistically scavenging the occasional dead animal (8). In some populations, this turtle practices an extraordinary technique of hunting earthworms in which it thumps the earth, either by stomping its forefeet or rapidly dropping its shell to the ground. Earthworms appear to react to the vibrations by emerging from their burrows, and are then quickly snatched up (6). Males actively pursue females both in and out of the water, and courtship can be an aggressive matter (11). Mating can occur at any time but is probably most frequent in spring and autumn (8). Females seek out open, sunny nesting sites, preferably sandy river banks, from May through to July, depending on climate (8) (9). Anywhere from 3 to 18 eggs are carefully buried, after which the nest site is covered over and concealed, which marks the end of parental investment. Nest predation by racoons, skunks, shrews, foxes and other predators means that most eggs sadly never hatch. After 47 to 69 days incubation, survivors emerge from their nests in late August or September and head to the water (8). It may take between 14 and 20 years before individuals attain sexual maturity and begin to produce offspring of their own (6) (8). The oldest known captive specimen was 58 years of age, but the lifespan in the wild may well exceed this (8).

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