The Wood Turtle (Clemmys insculpta)

Wood turtles are known by their nickname of "Ole Redlegs" throughout their range for their characteristic reddish skin and
scales around their neck and forelegs. Among turtles they are considered versatile and intelligent: they have been recorded climbing 6-foot high chain-link fences and foraging for worms in freshly-plowed fields. Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo exhibits wood turtles in its Reptile House located in the New England Farmyard.


A relatively large turtle (5-9 inches in length) with reddish-orange skin and scales on the neck and forelegs. The upper shell (carapace) appears wooden and sculpted, while the lower shell (plastron) appears yellowish with black blotches along the edges.


Deciduous woodland streams, Red Maple swamps, marshy meadows and farm country.


Nova Scotia south to northern Virginia and discontinuously west through southern Quebec and the Great Lakes region to eastern Minnesota and northeastern Iowa.


Worms, slugs, insects, tadpoles and wild fruits.

Family Life: 

Wood turtles typically lay one clutch of 6-8 leathery, oval eggs in May or June. These eggs usually hatch in September to October. In northern parts of their range, hatchlings may over-winter in the nest. Like most reptiles, hatchlings are precocious, meaning they must fend for themselves immediately; there is no parental care.


The Wood Turtle is listed as a Special Concern species here in Connecticut. This status provides these uncommon reptiles with a level of protection including study by state biologists and strict guidelines regarding collection and habitat conservation for these creatures. They are similarly protected in most other parts of their range.