The Wood Turtle is found in both aquatic and terrestrial habitats. They show a preference for clear, moving water, such as rivers, streams and creeks, with gravel or hard packed bottoms. A variety of shallow wetlands, such as swamps and bogs may also be used. Preferred terrestrial habitats vary across their range, but in all instances the Wood Turtle will remain close to water.
Terrestrial habitats seem to be used opportunistically, and Wood Turtles can be found in deciduous forests, fields and meadows, agricultural fields, swamps and other wetlands, and other types of forests.
The distribution of the Wood Turtle can be separated into two main areas: the Northeast and the Great Lakes. The Northeast region extends from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, south to northern Virginia and west through Pennsylvania and eastern Ontario. The Great Lakes region is somewhat discontinuous, with populations in southeastern Ontario (around Toronto), the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan and from the central Upper Peninsula of Michigan southwest to southern Wisconsin, and just into eastern Minnesota. There are also disjunct populations in northeastern Iowa, south central Quebec and southern Ontario.
Historically, the wood turtle was a fairly common species within suitable habitat in New Jersey. By the 1970s, however, declines were noted as wood turtles were absent from many historic sites due to habitat loss and stream degradation. Consequently, the wood turtle was listed as a threatened species in New Jersey in 1979. The New Jersey Natural Heritage Program considers the wood turtle to be “demonstrably secure globally,” yet “rare in New Jersey” (Office of Natural Lands Management 1992). Since the late 1970s, biologists have monitored and surveyed wood turtle sites in New Jersey, providing valuable data regarding the life history, reproduction, and habitat use of these turtles in the state. There is, however, a continuing need to examine the productivity and juvenile survival of wood turtles, which may be threatened by disturbance or predation.
In 1995, the wood turtle was proposed for inclusion on the federal endangered species list. Despite declines in several northeastern states, populations were considered stable enough throughout the species’ entire range to deny listing. However, the wood turtle was considered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a species that, “although not necessarily now threatened with extinction may become so unless trade in them is strictly controlled” (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1995). As a result, international trade of these turtles is strictly monitored and regulated through the CITES Act (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna Act). The New Jersey Endangered Species Act prohibits the collection or possession of wood turtles.
The scenic trails throughout the CMA covers a variety of woodlands and marshes. There are a variety of boardwalks, but after a rain some parts of the trails may become wet and proper footwear is recommended.
For information on the GSWA, and the CMA, please visit their web site at www.greatswamp.org
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