Turtle Tracks and Signs
 

Western Pond Turtle
Actinemys marmorata

 
 
track of a western pond turtle
 
 

The right front track of a Western Pond Turtle

 
     

Natural History of Turtles

western pond turtle. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2009
Western Pond Turtle (Actinemys marmorata)

Turtles are fascinating animals that carry their homes around on their backs. They have a hard shell, called a carapace, that encloses all their internal organs. Tortoises are turtles that retract their heads into their shells by pulling their neck into an S-shaped curve. Some turtles hide their heads by bending their necks sideways.

Turtles vary in size. Small North American box turtles can be six inches long, while the huge leatherback sea turtles can reach eight feet in length.

Turtles do not have teeth. While some turtles are vegetarians, most are omnivorous.

Turtles lay their eggs in sand or dirt. A few turtles live a long time, some reaching 100 years. The eggs are leathery, rather than hard like bird eggs.

Some pond turtles have webbed feet. One of the largest pond turtles in the world is the alligator snapping turtle. It can get up to 200 pounds.

Look for turtle tracks near water. The best time to look for them is the summer or fall. Females come out of the water to lay their eggs in late spring or early summer. They did a hole in soft sand to deposit the eggs in. Some land-dwelling turtles will dig burrows.

Sometimes the tail or shell will leave drag marks in the trail. The tracks are almost oval in shape with the toes showing on one side of the oval. There are five toes.

 

pond turtle in the Eel river. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2009.
(Actinemys marmorata) Western Pond Turtle

   
Notice how this pond turtle has drawn its head into the protective covering of its shell. Turtles have many ways of protecting themselves. They are alert and wary and will dive into the water if they are approached too closely. They can remain underwater until the threat goes away, or simply surface only enough to allow the nose to stick above water, allowing them to breathe.

pond turtle in shell. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2009.

   

pond turtle foot. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2009.

The left front foot of a western pond turtle. Notice the webbing between the toes. This helps them swim. If you would like to see a turtle swimming, see the Turtle Underwater Videos.
   
This view shows the toes spread and the webbing is prominent. You can see why turtles are good swimmers. They may move slowly on land, but they are much faster in the water. Their four webbed feet propel them with ease.

pond turtle foot. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2009.

   

pond turtle tracks. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2009.

This trail of parallel turtle tracks was found just above the water's edge. Turtles are normally found near water.
   

A close-up showing several turtle tracks and their size. The claws usually leave good marks, while the feet themselves may or may not make a distinct mark.

pond turtle tracks. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2009.

   

pond turtle foot. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2009.

A sandy right front turtle foot.
   
Nice view of the webbed right hind foot of a pond turtle. When swimming, these webs are spread wide and act as large paddles, moving the turtle through the water with ease.

pond turtle foot. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2009.

   

pond turtle foot. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2009.

The left front foot of a pond turtle folded back to protect the animal. This is the retracted position the turtle holds when it retreats into the shell. The front feet have long claws.
   
Some nice turtle tracks with prominent claw marks. There are two trails here, one on top of the other. The direction of travel is from bottom to top in the photo.

   

Very nice footprints of a pond turtle in sand. The right front and right hind tracks are clearly visible. Damp sand is a great medium for tracking because it holds the shape of the footprint for a long time. Dry sand is the opposite.
   
 

 

pond turtle scat

Tiny scat of a pond turtle hatchling.

 

turtle scat close up

Close up of the turtle hatchling scat. Turtles normally deposit their scats in water, so they are hard to find in the wild.

 

 

 

My Turtle Videos
Filmed along the south fork Eel River in northern California, USA
 
Pond Turtle Tracks Video
Turtle Basking on Cliff (approach from the water) Video
Turtle Video 1
Turtle Video 2
 
 

Personal Notes on Turtles

This turtle had crawled up onto a very steep rock face at the base of a cliff above the river. The benefit of this position is that the turtle merely had to let go and slip back into the water and there was a shelf under which it could hide just below the water surface. A perfect place to bask and avoid predators! Notice how closely the turtle is keeping an eye on the photographer too. I was not allowed to get too close.

Being reptiles, turtles have to get their warmth from external sources, such as sitting in the sun. They are called exotherms because of this.

   
Late one afternoon, I came to the river to look for tracks. I found this turtle basking on a rock above water level. It watched my slow approach with caution. When I got too close for comfort, the turtle dove underwater. Small animals have to be wary because predators are always looking for them.

   
   

More Pond Turtle Photos (Actinemys marmorata)
(Yes, I really like turtles!!)

Western pond turtle hatchling. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera.

Western pond turtle. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera.

This turtle hatchling was found about 300 feet from the river's edge in early summer. It was about two inches long.

This adult turtle was basking at the edge of the water.

   

turtle on rock. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera.

turtle on rock close up. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera.

A view of a turtle that had just climbed out of the water. Closer view of the turtle on the left.
   
basking turtle. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera. turtle on cliff. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera.
Basking turtle. Turtles are not warm blooded, so they have to use the warmth of the sun to warm up their bodies. The will bask in the sunlight to do this. Turtle on a steep rock face.
   
turtle tail. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera. mossy rock turtle. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera.
Turtle walking at the edge of the river. Pond turtle on a mossy rock.
   
wary turtle. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera. turtle on steep cliff. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera.
This wary turtle was watching me closely. A steep rock face provides a nice spot for basking in the sun.
   
handsome turtle. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera. turtle above waterline. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera.
Turtles have claws that they use to help them climb out of the water. This turtle was enjoying a nice summer day.
   
Actinemys marmorata. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera. turtle hiding in shell. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera.
The shell of a turtle offers it protection. A turtle can completely retreat into the shell for protection from predators.
   
turtle face. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera. pond turtle leaving the water. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera.
The nostrils are at the very end of the snout, which allows them to float underwater and just stick the snout out to breathe. Turtle beginning to climb out of the water.
   
basking with eyes closed. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera. pair of turtles. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera.
Eyes closed, a turtle looks very relaxed in the sunshine. A pair of turtles on the steep cliff face.
   
cautious turtle on rocks. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera. swimming turtle. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera.
Cautious turtle. Turtle swimming in the river.
   
turtle in sunset. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera. on a rock basking. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera.
Turtle enjoying the end of the day. Ahh, a basking rock!
   
pic of turtle swimming. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera. turtle swimming showing webbed feet. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera.
Turtle swimming underwater. The feet alternate when swimming. These photos were taken from a video clip I shot as the turtle swam under me. The webbing on the hind foot is visible on this swimming turtle. The webs help them move swiftly through the water. They may move slowly on land, but turtles can move better in the water.
   
turtle swimming. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera. turtle face close up. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera.
Another view showing the turtle swimming underwater. A close-up of the face of a turtle. Their nostrils are at the tip of the snout. This can allow the turtle to rest underwater with just the tip of its nose sticking out. It's probably a good way for them to stay safe from predators.
   
turtle on steep cliff face. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera. scenic view of turtle at water's edge. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera.
This turtle picked a very steep cliff face on which to bask. A view of a turtle as it exits the water and climbs out onto a rock face to bask.
   
a basking turtle. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera. pond turtle that recently came out of the water. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera.
A happy turtle basking in the summer sun. This turtle is still wet because it had just climbed out of the water.
   
pond turtle at water's edge. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera. turtle with algae on its back. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera.

Turtles are cautious, not coming completely out of the water until they are sure the surroundings are safe from predators.

This turtle had caught a bit of algae on its back.
   
   
   
   
   
Pond turtle found in Bull Creek, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California.   Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera The river near my home has numerous pond turtles. Unless you spend time really looking at the river, you won't see them. A casual glance often misses the turtles quietly sunning themselves on riverside logs. Sit by the river and look carefully. You will see them.
Late spring and early summer are good times to see the baby turtles. This tiny pond turtle was found in the South Fork of the Eel River in Humboldt County, California. Baby pond turtle. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera
Baby turtle from the Eel River. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera Turtles climb onto rocks and logs at the water's edge to sun themselves.
Claws are visible on the hind foot of this baby turtle. Even turtles this size are great swimmers. Baby turtle. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera
Baby turtle with ruler for scale. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera. Do you know how hard it is to get a baby turtle to sit still on a ruler so you can get a picture of its size? It's not easy. They don't like to sit still at all. This turtle was about two inches long and full of energy.
 

Pond turtle hiding in shell.  Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 1999.

This large pond turtle was found in Bull Creek, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California.
Summer 1999.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

turtle tracks

Turtle Tracks

Photo courtesy of Mark Seaver.

 

 

Find turtle tracks posters, greeting cards, t-shirts, hats, and more in my new store.

Visit Beartracker's Nature Store at: www.dirt-time.com   Happy tracking!!

What else can you find in the nature store? Beartracker's animal tracks coloring book, T-shirts, sweatshirts, journals, book bags, toddler and infant apparel, mouse pads, posters, postcards, coffee mugs, travel mugs, clocks, Frisbees, bumper stickers, hats, stickers, and many more items. All with tracks or paw  prints, or nature scenes. Custom products are available. If you don't see the track you want on the product you want, email me and I can probably create it. Proceeds from all sales go to pay the monthly fees for this web site. You can help support this site as well as get great tracking products! Thank you!

 

Find other tracking products: www.zazzle.com/tracker8459*

 

Also visit these fine stores for more products of interest:

NDN Pride shop - For Indian Pride items for all tribes. Custom items available on request.

ASL Signs of Love - For anyone who uses or is learning ASL, American Sign Language. Custom name items and more are available here.

Get Every Child Outdoors (Get E.C.O.) - My shop dedicated to nature and getting kids interested in nature and the outdoors.

Sales from all stores give commissions to Beartracker's Animal Tracks Den, which helps keep this site online as a free service. We are celebrating ten years online this year!

 

 

 

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tracker777@hotmail.com

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Copyright 1997, 2012. Text, drawings, and photos by Kim A. Cabrera

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Page updated: Sunday, August 1, 2012.