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Turtles - Continued

Smooth Softshell Turtle

Smooth Softshell Turtle

(Apalone mutica)

Photo by Hoberg and Gause

Smooth softshell turtles, also known as "leathernecks", are found in the Missouri River System of North Dakota. They are characterized by their nearly circular carapace covered with a soft leathery type of skin. The color of their shells may vary from olive-gray to orange-brown. The underside or plastron is gray to creamy white. The markings on their heads consist of pale swipes on the snout in front of the eyes, and pale stripes behind the eyes with dark borders.

These turtles are strong swimmers. They swim submerged in the water, breathing through their snorkel-like snouts. They like to sun themselves near the shoreline but are easily disturbed and quickly swim away.

Females grow larger than the males and are fully mature: in seven years. They mate in May to June with the females digging out nest sites on sand bars. One to three clutches of eggs are laid, each containing 4-33 hard-shelled eggs.

They feed primarily on crayfish and other small invertabrates. Frogs and small fish also are included in their diet.

False Map Turtle

False Map Turtle

(Graptemys pseudographica)

Photo by Hoberg and Gause

False map turtles are found in the extreme southern Missouri River System in North Dakota. They are identified by a brown carapace with light-yellow oval markings. They have blunt spines that project up from the midline of the carapace. On the head, a light yellow stripe behind each eye is visible.

The undersides or plastrons of false map turtles are cream to yellowish in color. The juveniles have an intricate pattern, whereas in the adults this pattern is absent. They mate in the spring and lay a clutch of 6-13 eggs.

These turtles are extremely rare in North Dakota, and they are very wary. The best opportunity to observe these turtles is during the first two weeks in June as they come: out of the water in the afternoon to lay their eggs in the sand. Keep in mind that these will be adult female turtles: often 12-16 inches long.

False map turtles eat aquatic vegetation, insects, worms,: X crustaceans, minnows, and mollusks.

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Last modified Sept. 27, 1995