Jim Mucci, a park naturalist at Hills Creek State Park, Wellsboro, said wood turtles can be found across the state, except in the southwestern border.
Wood turtles are one of the more terrestrial species in the state, Mucci said. But it also enjoys cool streams, especially streams running through a hardwood forest, much like J.T.’s backyard.
Wood turtles hibernate under water in the winter; they are air breathers but it will absorb oxygen through its skin.
“They’re really a neat turtle. The scientific name is insculpta … it sounds like sculpture and if you look at the shell, it looks like carved wood. It’s really a pretty neat little shell,” Mucci said. Its scutes (large scales) are pyramidal; the ridges and grooves are larger on the bottom and become smaller as it approaches the top, according to the PA fish and boat website. One way to tell a wood turtle from a box turtle is by its shell. A wood turtle’s plastron is hingeless, unlike a box turtle’s.
Mucci said he could understand why someone would want to possess a wood turtle. But backing up what J.T. said, it’s illegal to possess, take or kill a wood turtle here.
“Turtles don’t make very good pets. They’re not active like some other animals you might want in captivity. They’re not very fast, they move around just a little bit,” Mucci said.
Of the 14 species of turtles in Pennsylvania, the common snapping turtle is a species that has a season, which runs from July 1-Oct. 31. The daily limit is 15 and the possession limit is 30, Mucci said. It seems high, but it’s a pretty abundant species, he said. At one time, there was no limit on snapping turtles.
Leaving wood turtles alone is really the best way to help protect them, Mucci said. If you see one crossing the street, you can help by picking it up and putting it on the side it was heading toward.
He said if anyone sees turtles, turtle eggs or turtle shells for sale, and they’re unsure how the animal was obtained, to contact the Fish and Boat Commission.
For more information on wood turtles, visit https://www.fishandboat.com.