The sign of any healthy body of water is the presence of native turtles. Of the 327 species alive today, 60+ of those are found living in the wild in the United States. The fossil record shows that turtles are at least 157 million years old in what we would recognize today as a turtle, which means they have been living and thriving long before other reptiles such as snakes, alligators and crocodiles evolved into their current forms!
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Eastern Chicken Turtle
The eastern chicken turtle (Deirochelys reticularia reticularia) is a subspecies of the common chicken turtle (Deirochelys reticularia) that is found throughout most of the American Southeast that is often found in wetlands, lakes and marshes. This one was found and photographed in Southwest Florida moving overland from one pond to another in the Fakahatchee Strand – part of the northern Florida Everglades watershed system. An easy identification tool is to look for the thick yellow stripe on the forelimb, and as to its common name – the early settlers who caught and ate them thought they tasted like chicken.
Florida Box Turtle
This endemic subspecies of the eastern box turtle is found only in Florida except for a few small pockets in the extreme southern part of Georgia. I found this female in the oak scrub in the bluffs above the Apalachicola River in an extremely rural part of northern Florida.
Florida Redbelly Cooters
A pair of native Florida redbelly cooters bask in the sun just outside of Miami in the Florida Everglades. These small river turtles reach about 12 inches in length and are found only in Florida, except a couple places on the southern border in Georgia.
“Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.” ~ James Bryant Conant
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