Most Massachusetts Turtle Species Are in Danger of Extinction
There are 10 species of turtles in Massachusetts. Mass Audubon says most are threatened or endangered under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act.
In addition, five sea turtles have been found offshore or stranded on beaches. Most sea turtles come from tropical or sub-tropical climates. Some youngsters will feed along the East Coast in the summer but return to warmer water by winter.
Mass Audubon says with luck, you might spot all five sea turtles off Cape Cod in the summer, though it is "highly unlikely."
Like snakes and lizards, turtles are reptiles. Mass Audubon says, "The first turtles appeared over 200 million years ago." Turtles live in the water but breathe air and lay their eggs on land.
The species most in danger include; Blanding's Turtle, Bog Turtle, Diamond-backed Terrapin, Eastern Box Turtle, Northern Red-bellied Cooter, and Wood Turtle.
The Eastern Musk Turtle, Painted Turtle, Red-eared Slider, Snapping Turtle, and Spotted Turtle appear safe, at least for now.
Turtle nesting season is upon us. Mass Audubon says, "Female turtles lay their eggs on land, typically in June or July."
According to Mass Audubon, "Some species will excavate a number of holes; these "false nests" may serve as deterrents for predators."
After laying eggs and covering them with dirt, the female departs.
After two or three months, the young turtles hatch underground. Mass Audubon says, "The hatchlings dig their way to the surface and head to their preferred habitat." The hatchlings often fall prey to "skunks, raccoons, foxes, mink, bullfrogs, hawks, and other carnivores."
Others get crushed by motor vehicles while attempting to cross roadways.
Possessing a turtle listed on the state or federal endangered species list is illegal. There are fines for killing, harassing, or harming endangered or protected turtles.
Mass Audubon has a great webpage with information on the turtle species found in Massachusetts and upcoming educational programs for kids.