Wheeh! Does something stink? Well you just might have made a Musk Turtle mad! All musk turtles have 2 pairs of musk glands beneath the border of the carapace. The secretions are so strong that they have come to be known as a “stinkpot” or “stinking jim”.
Common Musk Turtles are found in southern Ontario and coastal Maine to Florida, and west to central Texas, and up north to southern Wisconson. Adult common Musk Turtles have been known to grow upto as much as 5-6 5/8″ (12.7-17 cm).
Common Musk Turtles are general detected by the 2 light stripes that run from their head to their chin and down to the throat. The carapace color usually runs from an olive-brown to a dark gray. Because it spends extended periods underwater, the common musk often has a rich growth of algae and many leeches on its shell (the leeches generally present themselves in the wild).
The most prominent behavior of the common Musk Turtle is its defensive tactic. When disturbed, this turtle will quickly release a foul-smelling liquid from its musk glands. Also, the male is particularly aggressive and will not think twice about biting
Being typically noctorunal, the common Musk is generally inactive in daylight hours, remaining buried in the mud or resting on the bottom. Basking is not a favorite habit of this turtle, as it is rarely found out of water. Most basking occurs while the turtle rests in shallow water with only the top of its carapace exposed to the sunlight. It may, however, climb onto the river bank or onto fallen trees to bask. Older turtles drop into the water when disturbed but younger ones hold on with such a grip that it is sometimes difficult to remove them.
Why is a box turtle called such? A hinge in the middle of the plastron allows them to tightly lock their head, limbs, and tail inside their shells, forming a “box”. In the wild, box turtles are usually seen early in the day, or after rain. They often retire to swampy areas during the hot summer months. They are fond of slugs, earthworms, wild strawberries, and mushrooms poisonous to man — which habit has killed many a human who has eaten their flesh. New York Indians are responsible for eliminating this turtle from much of the area between Ohio and New England. They ate Box Turtle meat, used the shells for ceremonial rattles, and burried turtles with the dead. A few specimens are known to have lived more than 100 years, having served as “living records,” with fathers and then sons carving their names or other family records on the shell.
Common box turtles are found in most areas of the United States east of central Oklahoma and south of central New York. With a number of subspecies, such as the Eastern, Gulf Coast, Three-toed, and Florida Box Turtles, they offer a great diversity of appearance. Some varieties of box turtle are protected by state laws, and are thus not available in stores. Adult box turtles have been known to grow upto as much as 4-8 1/2″ (10-21.6 cm).
Individual common box turtles vary widely in appearance. Some are very brightly colored, while others are an overall brown color. Adults average from four to eight inches in length. A major physical feature is the plastron (mentioned earlier), hinged at the front, which the turtle can close tightly against the carapace, closing himself up within his shell.
Box turtles are thought to be a highly intelligent reptile. While they are somewhat shy in the wild, they are easily tamed. In captivity they live an average of 50 years, with some known to live 100 + years! During periods of cooler weather when temperatures drop below 60 degrees F, they are likely to hibernate.