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Species Spotlight: Illinois Mud Turtle

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 12/6/2010

This article will discuss, in detail, the habitat, endangered species standing, diet and mating of the Illinois Mud Turtle.

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    About the Species

    Physical Appearance

    The Illinois Mud Turtle is a small turtle and it is a subspecies of the Yellow Mud Turtle. The limbs, head and neck of this turtle are dark gray and its shell is dark brown in color. There is also some yellow on the front part of its lower jaw.

    Habitat

    The Illinois Mud Turtle can be found in sandy-bottom ponds, muddy-bottom ponds and in other small bodies of water in the Northwest region of Illinois as well as Iowa and Missouri. They inhabit water regardless if there is vegetation present or not. They often burrow in the mud and sand to avoid freezing and they also burrow to hibernate during the winter. Illinois Mud Turtle's will leave ponds that are drying up around late July so that they can hibernate and they will not come out of hibernation until spring time. There are a few of these turtles that do not hibernate during winter, but of those, few survive.

    Diet & Lifespan

    The Illinois Mud Turtle has a lifespan of approximately fifteen years. They are often preyed on by several different species such as western hognose snakes, rodents, skunks and raccoons. This turtle is considered endangered and it listed as so in the states of Missouri, Iowa and the Northwest region of Illinois.

    Illinois Mud Turtle's eat an omnivorous diet consisting of vegetation, dead or decaying matter, invertebrates, worms, tadpoles, leeches, frogs, slugs, snails, crayfish, fairy shrimp, fish and other various aquatic insects. They will forage water and land in search of food. During hibernation that mainly eat earthworms that cross their paths, but they do not actively forage for food during hibernation. Illinois Mud Turtle's have small, strong mouths that they use to quickly “snap" their prey.

    Social Behavior

    The Illinois Mud Turtle is the only species of turtle that actually parent their offspring. The females will remain with their eggs for a period of time that could last a few hours all the way up to thirty-eight days. Females will also urinate on their eggs, during dry periods, to aid in the hatching process as well as up the success rate of how many eggs hatch. Illinois Mud Turtles tend to begin their nesting in the spring so that the eggs will hatch in the fall. Some of the hatchlings will then leave the nest and go off on their own, but most will remain in the nest to burrow for the winter. Once spring arrives these hatchlings will then venture off on their own.