Of the 28 species of turtles native to Texas, about 14 semi-aquatic turtles inhabit the eastern part of the state. Turtles thrive in the diverse watersheds and climate of Texas, especially in the many rivers of east Texas. Turtles spend most of their lives in the water but you can see them sunning themselves on riverbanks, logs and rocks. Turtles are cold-blooded and depend upon the water and air temperature to keep their internal body temperature regulated.
Ornate Box Turtle
The Ornate box turtle lives throughout Texas except in the far western part of the state. It makes its home in woodlands, pastures and grasslands, spending most of its time on dry land. The Ornate box turtle has a rust colored, high domed shell with yellow lines that radiate from its center.
Three-Toed Box Turtle
The three-toed box turtle lives in east Texas and as far west as McCulloch county and Kimble county, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife. Both back feet of this turtle only have three toes. Like all box turtles, the three-toed box turtle eats insects, snails and dead animals. As these turtles age, they eat more plant life. A box turtle can live from 20 to 50 years.
Five species of map turtles thrive in east Texas. The Mississippi map turtle is the most common. It is brown with a patterned shell. The Ouachita map turtle features three white spots behind its eyes and yellow lines on its legs and head. This map turtle lives along the Neches, Red and Sabine rivers, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife. The Sabine map turtle, as its name suggests, lives along the Sabine River in east Texas. It features two yellow circles on its head. The Texas map turtle has yellow or oranges markings on its head and lives in the drainage areas of the Colorado River. The Cagle’s map turtle has cream and yellow markings on its head and lives along the three rivers, San Antonio, Guadalupe and San Marcos.
The western chicken turtle lives in lakes and drainage areas in east Texas. East Texas is also the home of the red-eared slider turtle and the Big Bend slider.
Soft-shelled turtles with flat, rather than domed shells live at the bottom of ponds and streams. The pallid spiny soft-shell lives in northeast Texas
Two species of snapping turtles, the common snapping turtle and the alligator snapping turtle are found in east Texas near bodies of water. These are aggressive, carnivorous turtles.
The eastern mud turtle is small with dark brown and yellow-green coloring. It also has a spotted head. The eastern mud turtles lives in the Hill Country. Another mud turtle in east Texas is the common musk turtle that lives in the mud at the bottom of lakes and ponds of east Texas.
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Karen Curley has more than 18 years experience in health and nutrition, specializing in healthy food choices for families. She received USDA certification in food components, nutrient sources, food groups and infant/child nutrition, and holds a B.A. in English from the University of Massachusetts. Curley is also an avid gardener, home renovator, Collie breeder, dog groomer and dog trainer.