The spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata) is a small, 3- to 5-inch dark or black turtle with yellow or orange spots marking its smooth carapace, head, and limbs. The number of spots is variable and changes with age; hatchlings typically have one spot per scute, while adults may have more than 100. Though the spotted turtle is considered semi-aquatic, it spends considerable time on land. The spotted turtle is declining throughout the eastern United States and receives protection from most states within its range. Threats include development of upland habitat, mortality from vehicles on roadways, mortality or reduced fitness from impervious surface runoff, and illegal casual or commercial collection. It is listed as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in five states in BCR 14.
Spotted turtles require large intact landscapes with a diversity of wetland types and sizes. They have been found using a variety of wetland habitats—marshes, wet meadows, ponds, forested and shrub swamps, fens, shallow slow‐moving streams and rivers, and vernal pools. They hibernate in wetland habitats under the cover of dense clumps of herbaceous vegetation or within cavities created by the roots of trees or shrubs. Seasonal shifts in habitat use will vary geographically with both upland and wetland movements sometimes greater than 1,500 feet. In spring, wetlands and vernal pools with abundant wood frog (Lithobates sylvaticus) egg masses are commonly used, while high sun-exposure wetlands may be used more in the fall. Females will seek out open-canopied uplands with loose, well-drained soils between late May and early July for nesting.
Habitat Management Practices
There is significant overlap in habitat use between Blanding’s turtles (Emydoidea blandingii) and spotted turtles, and the following may be largely applied to either species.
In areas where spotted turtles are known or predicted to be present, schedule forestry activities during their inactive season from November 1st to February 28th, crossing wetlands only when frozen solid. To avoid crushing adults during the active season, restrict equipment to 300 feet from vernal pools, potential vernal pools, scrub-shrub swamps, and emergent wetlands. Avoid areas between wetlands or vernal pools that are within 600 feet of each other. Minimize active-season wetland crossings to the extent possible, using temporary bridges as needed. Avoid disturbance to vernal pools year-round. Avoid introducing aquatic or terrestrial invasive plants from off-site fill.
To avoid mortality to nests, hatchlings, and juveniles, do not stage equipment or use motorized vehicles from May 15th to September 15th in potential nesting areas such as gravel pits or powerlines with stable, coarse sand or sand and gravel substrates. If activities cannot be avoided, secure the area perimeter with silt fence and conduct daily sweeps before each work day.
American woodcock (Scolopax minor) recommendations may be beneficial where timber harvests larger than natural disturbances offset a lack of early successional habitat, especially near existing patches of shrubland, wetland, or beaver flowages.
Avoid siting trails within core areas of high priority sites. Reroute ATV and OHRV trails away from nesting areas (e.g., gravel pits) and wetland movement corridors. Where such trails already exist, consider seasonal closures or delayed trail openings. Most trail and turtle conflicts occur in June, when turtles are seeking nesting sites.
Nesting creation, expansion, or enhancement
Identify potential new nesting areas within the interior of the site more than several hundred feet from roads and residences and within 600 feet of known or predicted high-use wetlands.
Carloni, J. 2015. American Woodcock. Pages A281-A287 in the New Hampshire Wildlife Action Plan, NH Fish & Game Department, Concord, NH.
Jenkins, R., and K.J. Babbitt. 2003. Developing a conservation strategy to protect land habitat functions for New Hampshire’s reptiles and amphibians using the Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) as a flagship species. Final report submitted to the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department.
Jones, M. and L. Willey. 2013. Conservation Plan for the Blanding’s Turtle and Associated Species of Conservation Need in the Northeastern United States. [Online] Northeast Blanding’s Turtle Working Group.
Marchand. M., and L. Valliere. 2015. Spotted Turtle. Pages A2-A16 in the New Hampshire Wildlife Action Plan, NH Fish & Game Department, Concord, NH.
Milam, J.C., and S.M. Melvin. 2001. Density, habitat use, movements, and conservation of spotted turtles (Clemmys guttuta) in Massachusetts). Journal of Herpetology 35:418‐427.
Northeast Blanding’s Turtle Working Group. 2015. Habitat Management Guidelines.