Oklahoma is no stranger to wildlife, so it’s only natural to see reptiles of various species, such as turtles, throughout the state. These different turtle species vary in size, shape, color, and even where you can find them. Keep reading to learn about the various turtles in Oklahoma.
17 Turtles In Oklahoma
The state of Oklahoma is home to 17 turtle species, which includes two land-dwelling turtle species and 15 aquatic species.
1. Common Snapping Turtle
Scientific Name: Chelydra serpentina
Common snapping turtles are found in reservoirs, lakes, and other large bodies of water throughout most of Oklahoma. While they are mostly aquatic creatures, they will go on land every so often.
During this time, snapping turtles can act aggressively if they feel threatened or are cornered while out of the water. It is not uncommon for snapping turtles to hiss and try to bite.
2. Alligator Snapping Turtle
Scientific Name: Macrochelys temminckii
Alligator snapping turtles look like something straight out of the Jurassic era. They are the largest freshwater turtles in the United States. In fact, the alligator snapping turtle can way up to 249 pounds and their caprice can reach lengths of up to 29 inches long.
The alligator snapping turtle is extremely aggressive and has a massive beak that can easily puncture and amputate a body part. Alligator snapping turtles feed on various insects, small mammals, spiders, frogs, fish, birds, snakes, birds, various plants, and even smaller turtles.
3. Mississippi Mud Turtle
Scientific Name: Kinosternon subrubrum hippocrepis
This mostly-aquatic turtle species is a common one that can be found throughout the eastern region of Oklahoma. They thrive in slow-moving, shallow waters, such as swamps, marshes, and bogs. They feed on aquatic plants, snails, mollusks, snails, and even fish.
Mississippi mud turtles have oval, smooth carapaces that range in color from brown to dirty yellow. They also feature a yellow stripe that runs down from each eye.
4. Yellow Mud Turtle
Scientific Name: Kinosternon flavescens flavescens
The Yellow mud turtles prefer ponds and marshes where they can burrow into the sandy bottom. This species of mud turtle is small with tan to olive-colored shells without any markings. Their faces have a yellow hue and they feast on insects, mollusks, and crustaceans.
5. Common Musk Turtle
Scientific Name: Sternotherus odoratus
The common musk turtle is an aquatic species that is often called stinkpots due to the strong aroma that they can release from their musk glands. This odor is a defense mechanism that helps to keep predators from preying on this small turtle.
Common musk turtles are found in the southeastern and northeastern areas of Oklahoma and mostly feed on small amphibians, mollusks, and crustaceans. They thrive in boggy and marshy areas where the water moves slowly.
6. Razor-Backed Musk Turtle
Scientific Name: Sternotherus carinatus
This aquatic turtle species is not often seen even though they do call Oklahoma their home. They prefer a habitat with slow moving water where they can hide in the aquatic plants.
They consume small fish, mollusks, insects, and crustaceans. The razor-backed musk turtle has a brownish black to grayish olive shell with a razor-like humps on its scute.
7. Common Map Turtle
Scientific Name: Graptemys geographica
Common map turtles are found throughout the state of Oklahoma. These aquatic turtles are wonderful swimmers who thrive in large rivers and don’t typically venture too far from the water.
They have olive or dark brown shells covered in unusual markings that resemble a map. The common map turtle has small yellowish-colored spots behind each of its eyes, which lets you identify them from other species of map turtles.
8. Mississippi Map Turtle
Scientific Name: Graptemys pseudogeographica kohni
The Mississippi map turtle loves large, fast rivers and lakes that are found in the eastern regions of the state. They are often seen basking along the edge of these waters during the summer months.
They have black to dark brown shells with yellow markings that look similar to other types of map turtles. Mississippi map turtles are aquatic creatures that usually never travel very far from a water source. They consume aquatic vegetation, insects, and crustaceans.
9. Ouachita Map Turtle
Scientific Name: Graptemys ouachitensis
Like other map turtles, the Ouachita map turtle can be found in large, fast-moving rivers in the state of Oklahoma. They are often seen basking in the sun, but will quickly jump back into the water when startled.
Their dark brown to dark green shells have markings similar to other map turtles. However, you can tell the difference between the Ouachita map turtle and other map turtles thanks to the lightly colored patches that they have behind each of its eyes.
10. Ornate Box Turtle
Scientific Name: Terrapene ornata
The ornate box turtle is a terrestrial turtle found in Oklahoma’s open spaces, such as prairies and grasslands. While this species is often considered endangered in various other states, it is rather common in the state of Oklahoma.
This turtle species is often kept as pets, thanks to its attractive appearance and docile nature. Their dome-shaped shells are black or dark brown with yellow or orange stripes.
Ornate box turtles consume a wide array of insects, plants, berries, and mollusks. They have a lifespan of up to 40 years and typically weigh less than 2 pounds.
11. Three-Toed Box Turtle
Scientific Name: Terrapene carolina triunguis
This turtle species is actually a subspecies of the Eastern box turtle, and is typically found in grassland and woodland areas in the eastern half of Oklahoma. They have a domed shell that is olive, brown, or black in color, red to orange-colored chins and matching patches on their legs. As their name would suggest, the three-toed box turtle has 3 claws on its back legs instead of the traditional 4 claws.
12. Eastern River Cooter
Scientific Name: Pseudemys concinna concinna
The Eastern river cooter is a semi-aquatic, freshwater turtle that is native to Oklahoma. They thrive in fast-moving water, such as the rivers found throughout the state, and have been spotted basking on logs or rocks at the water’s edge. They feed on various aquatic plants and even fruits, and can live for up to 40 years.
13. Western Chicken Turtle
Scientific Name: Deirochelys reticularia miaria
This semi-aquatic turtle species is found in slow-moving or still waters, such as swamps, and ponds, in Oklahoma. While they are in this state, they are not often seen.
Furthermore, the Western chicken turtle is slowly becoming endangered thanks to the loss of its habitat. They feed on plants, fish, insects, crustaceans, and mollusks. The Western chicken turtle gets its name because this species is often hunted for its meat.
14. Red-Eared Slider
Scientific Name: Trachemys scripta elegans
The red-eared slider is found throughout Oklahoma, except for certain areas of the state’s panhandle. They are a semi-aquatic species that is often kept as pets.
This turtle species thrives in slow-moving water and feeds on various aquatic vegetation, insects, and fish. They have an olive green shell that has yellow stripes.
15. Painted Turtle
Scientific Name: Chrysemys picta
There are two painted turtle species found in Oklahoma, the southern painted turtle (Chrysemys picta dorsalis) and the western painted turtle (Chrysemys picta bellii). Both of these subspecies are aquatic turtles that can be found in ponds, marshes, and other shallow waters throughout the state. They consume a mixture of plants and insects, and like to bask on logs near water.
Painted turtles have black to dark brown shells that have a red to yellow edge, and their faces feature yellow stripes. The southern painted turtle has an orange or red line that runs down its carapace, while the western subspecies doesn’t have this stripe.
16. Spiny Softshell Turtle
Scientific Name: Apalone spinifera
Spiny softshell turtles are fast swimmers that do well in waters that have moving currents, such as streams and rivers. Their shells are leathery with a pancake-shape with spines that stick out from the front. Their beaks are long and tapered, and they feed on insects, mollusks, and crustaceans.
17. Smooth Softshell Turtle
Scientific Name: Apalone mutica mutica
The Smooth softshell turtles can mainly be found in larger rivers that flow through the state of Oklahoma. The rivers that this turtle species lives in must have a sandbar since the smooth softshell turtle requires them for nesting.
This species of turtle doesn’t have the iconic hard shell that most other turtle species have and instead features a leathery pancake-shaped shell. They are gray or brown in color with a tapered snout.