Eastern Musk Turtle

Young Eastern Musk Turtle                  Photo Credit: Scott Gillingwater

Sternotherus odoratus

Formerly called: Stinkpot Turtle.

Status:

  • COSEWIC – Special Concern.
  • COSSARO – Special Concern.

Description:

  • Small turtle, adult body length of 7 to 13 cm. (3 to 5 in.)
  • Domed carapace (portion of shell covering back) is brown in colour, with black flecks. The plastron (lower shell) is quite small and black and yellow in colour.
  • Two yellow stripes along each side of its head and barbels (whisker-like) on chin and throat.

Habitat:

  • A variety of wetlands, including ponds, rivers, marshes and lakes.
  • Usually prefer a sand or gravel bottom.
  • Rarely venture from the water even to bask.

Stinkpot Turtle Plastron Photo Credit: Scott Gillingwater

Food:

  • Aquatic insects and invertebrates, aquatic plants and carrion.

Habits:

  • Hibernation, under mud or logs, lasts from late October to April.
  • If handled, the Stinkpot Turtle lives up to its name by releasing a musky smelling substance from under its carapace.

Reproduction:

  • Mating occurs from April to May, and possibly a second time in the fall.
  • From late May to early July, clutches of 2-5 brittle eggs are laid in a hole dug in sandy soil, or beneath ground cover. Typically muskrat houses are used by the females for nesting sites.
  • Males mature after 3 or 4 years, however females may not mature until they are 7 or older.
  • May live to the age of 50.

Threats:

  • The main factor in their decline is the draining of wetlands and shoreline development.

Conservation Actions:

  • If you own waterfront property, you can help many wildlife species by keeping the shoreline in a natural state. The Muskoka Watershed Council has great resource materials available at www.muskokaheritage.org/watershed/index.asp

For more information on the Stinkpot: www.pc.gc.ca/nature/eep-sar/itm3-/eep-sar3z2_e.asp#what

Stinkpot Turtle Photo Credit: Scott Gillingwater

For more information in Parry Sound District, please contact:

Ecologist
Georgian Bay Islands National Park
901 Wye Valley Road
Midland, ON
L4R 4K6
705-526-9804

SAR Biologist
Parry Sound OMNR
7 Bay St.
Parry Sound
P2A 1S4
705-746-4201