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Elk Head CONSERVATION
Native fish, wildlife and their habitat
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Turtles in Oregon

Oregon has two native species of turtles: the western pond turtle and the western painted turtle. Both are highlighted in the Oregon Conservation Strategy as species in need of help—that is, they have low or declining populations.

Western Pond Turtle

Habitat: Pond turtles prefer marshes, streams, rivers, ponds and lakes. They need sparse vegetation nearby for digging nests and like to bask on logs.

Lives: Coast Range, East Cascades, Klamath Mountains, West Cascades and Willamette Valley ecoregions.

Fun fact: This turtle, which can live more than 30 years in the wild, may overwinter on dry land.

Western Pond Turtle

Western Painted Turtle

Habitat: This turtle needs marshy ponds, small lakes, slow-moving streams, and quiet off-channel portions of rivers. It prefers waters with muddy bottoms with aquatic vegetation. Open ground for nesting and logs for basking help keep this species healthy.

Lives: In Blue Mountains and Willamette Valley ecoregions. In the Columbia Plateau, East Cascades and West Cascades ecoregions, it lives only along the Columbia River.

Fun fact: While hatchlings are only about the size of a quarter, individuals can live 20 years or more.

Western Pond Turtle

Non-native turtles

Non-native turtles compete with native turtles for basking sites and are known to introduce disease that has resulted in localized die-offs of native turtle populations. The two species Oregon biologists are concerned about are snapping turtles and red-eared sliders. Never buy or release either of these turtles in the wild. Call your local ODFW office if you have one of these species or if you see one.

Common Snapping Turtle

The common snapping turtle, indigenous to the eastern United States, can reach up to 18” in length. Its top shell is strongly serrated and varies from tan/brown to olive to almost black. Its long tail has three rows of saw-tooth keels.

It is illegal in the state to buy, sell, possess or release this non-native turtle. If you’ve just realized you are in possession of a non-native turtle, contact your local ODFW office.

For more information, see Oregon Administrative Rules, Division 56, IMPORTATION, POSSESSION, CONFINEMENT, TRANSPORTATION AND SALE OF NONNATIVE WILDLIFE (pdf)

Common Snapping Turtle

Red-Eared Slider

The Red-Eared Slider is also a turtle from the eastern U.S. It has a dark shell, yellow stripes on the neck and legs, and a bright red patch just behind the eye.

It is illegal in the state to buy, sell, possess or release this non-native turtle. If you’ve just realized you are in possession of a non-native turtle, contact your local ODFW office.

For more information, see Oregon Administrative Rules, Division 56, IMPORTATION, POSSESSION, CONFINEMENT, TRANSPORTATION AND SALE OF NONNATIVE WILDLIFE (pdf)

red-eared slider

Have you seen a turtle in Oregon?

Let us know by completing an online form. Biologists are working on an updated census of Willamette Valley turtles. Visit the Native Turtles of Oregon website and let us know.
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