Whether you are looking to purchase a turtle for a pet or you just want to be able to identify a turtle you meet in the wild, turtle identification is not as difficult as one would imagine.
There are certain characteristics that are unique to specific species of turtles and once you have a basic understanding about what those characteristics are, you will be well on your way to making a correct turtle identification.
Protein: There are many sources of protein that are safe to feed turtles: small amounts of cooked fish, turkey or chicken are okay; boiled eggs are okay; mealworms, waxworms, earthworms and silkworms are okay; slugs are fine, as are shrimp, snails and crickets. Don’t give them raw meat, though because it can contain a lot of fat and could become contaminated by the time the turtle decides to eat it.
Looking at the Shell
The shell can tell you a lot about what kind of turtle you are looking at. This is one of the first turtle identification indicators for which you can look. Softshell turtles have leather-like skin that is soft to the touch. Box turtles typically have a shell that is high and domed. You will find them on land and they are the most common turtle in the pet trade.
A turtle with a flat shell may have markings of black, yellow, red or orange hues, often indicates that it comes from the species called Chrysemys. These are water turtles and include painted turtles and sliders. Another water turtle identification clue is if the turtle you come across has three ridges on its carapace or shell of a black or brown hue combined with skin color of black or olive, you may be looking at a Reeves turtle. Spotted turtles will have plenty of yellow spots on their shell and they too are of the aquatic species.
Snapping Turtle Characteristics
Turtle identification of the snapping variety is fairly simple. The first thing you may notice is that their jaws are hooked. Their shells are typically a dark color. His head will be large and his neck is long. The plastron or underbelly seems when viewed from below that the shell is too small for him. The snapping turtle typically has back feet that are webbed and the front feet are clawed.
Using the Toes for Turtle Identification
Semi-aquatic and aquatic turtles can be identified by looking at their rear feet to see if they have webbing between their toes. Land turtles will not have webbing on their toes and should never be put in water because most will not be able to swim. If you happen to be strolling along the beach and come across a turtle with front legs that appear to be flippers, you are lucky enough to have found a sea turtle and should report your findings immediately to a wildlife organization.
Correct turtle identification can make a walk in the woods or a visit to the pond more interesting as you will be able to approximate what type of turtle you are looking at. Kids will love being able to look at the clues to make a proper turtle identification.
Being able to identify a turtle is important if you are planning on adding one to your menagerie. Knowing their habitat and food requirements will ensure that your pet turtle will be part of your family for many years to come.