North American Wood Turtle

By Hikefish & Sfrese

Photo by Hikefish



Glyptemys insculpta


Male   7.5 - 8.5              Female   7 - 8.25


These turtles will eat anything that is edible.  By nature, they are omnivores, consuming both animal and plant matter.  However, they tend to be more carnivorous than anything else.  In the wild they eat a variety of things.  These include worms, crayfish, fish, beetles, ants, and even mice.  As far as plant matter goes, their favorite plants are wild blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries.  Based on observations in the wild, they eat anything that will fit in their mouth and is edible.


Air Temperature:  70 - 80F

Basking Temperature:  85F

Water Temperature:  60 - 70F


In the wild, these turtles seldom leave the vicinity of water.  They are mostly found in cold water streams that rarely get above 70*F in the summer.  The streams are usually unpolluted and very shaded.  These turtles use the streams for mating and hibernation.  However, they will leave them in search of food and to lay eggs.  Streams that wood turtles inhabit are usually small but at least 2 feet deep for hibernation.


Found in the Northeast from MD on northward.  Most common in Pennsylvania.  They are also found in MD, NY, MA, ME, VT, and NH




The captive habitat of this species can be either very simple or elaborate.  There are a few simple requirements that should be met however.  Adults need to have a water area that is 2 feet deep and stays under 70 degrees.  If the correct water temp isnt maintained, these turtles can overheat and die very easily.  Also, they should have plenty of shade in order to keep cool.  The key with this species, is to keep the temperatures of the habitat cool.  Room temperature usually works great as long as there is a basking spot.  As far as substrate goes, top soil can be used as a great medium.  A UVB light should be used to keep all turtles healthy.  There should be a lot of sight barriers in the pen in order to keep adults from fighting/breeding all the time.


By far, the best enclosure for a wood turtle is outdoors.  A single adult would do fine in a 5 ft x 5 ft enclosure with a pond of at least 2 feet in depth and about half the size of the pen.  Multiple adults would do fine with an extra 4 sq. feet of space per adult.  If you absolutely must house adults indoors, nothing less than a small kiddy pool should be used.  A 50 gallon Rubbermaid is simply too small for an adult wood turtle.  With housing indoors, it should only be temporary so that you dont compromise the health of your turtle.  Hatchlings and juvenile wood turtles can be housed indoors until they get to about 5 inches in Straight Carapace Length.  After that time, they should be moved to an outdoor enclosure.


They will eat anything in captivity.  The best thing for them is to keep Hosta plants in the enclosure, they will nibble and eat these plants.  As far as animal matter goes, they will eat earthworms, night crawlers, mealworms, crickets, crayfish, and pre killed mice.  As far as animal matter goes, they will eat apples, pears, blueberries, strawberries, romaine lettuce, radicchio, carrots, and various  non-toxic leafy plants. 


These turtles can be kept together with other wood turtles.  NO MORE THAN ONE MALE PER ENCLOSURE!!!  Males will fight to the death if kept together.  Wood turtles can also be kept with box turtles and sliders/basking turtles.  Turtles kept with adult wood turtles should be at least 6 inches long to prevent injuries. 


Even though these turtles do not have much webbing on their feet, they are very strong swimmers and should be provided with a deep water area.  If you plan on breeding these turtles, females MUST have a sandy loam area to lay eggs.  This can be made of 40-45% sand and 55-60% top soil.  If this isnt provided, they will simply lay the eggs in water, which could cause embryo death.