Common Musk Turtle

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The eastern musk turtle is almost entirely aquatic, spending the vast majority of its time in shallow, heavily vegetated waters of slow moving creeks, or in ponds. It typically only ventures onto land when the female lays eggs, or in some cases, to bask. It can climb sloping, partially submerged tree trunks or branches to as high as 2 m (6.6 ft) above the water surface, and has been known to drop into boats or canoes passing underneath. It is a poor swimmer and can most often be found walking along the bottom of its native habitats, which include swamps, marshes, ephemeral pools, and large rivers and lakes. Its defense mechanism is to excrete a musk scent from a small gland in its underside, hence the name musk turtle. This is used to scare away predators and natural enemies.


The stinkpot is carnivorous, consuming a wide variety of aquatic invertebrates including crayfish, freshwater clams, snails, aquatic larvae, tadpoles and various insects. It will also eat fish and carrion. A hatchling's diet is much more carnivorous than an adult's, and may slowly acquire a taste for aquatic plants as the turtle matures. A wild common musk turtle often will not hesitate to bite if harassed. Because its neck can extend as far as its hind feet, caution is required when handling one.


S. odoratus turtle is found in a variety of wetland habitats and littoral zones, particularly shallow watercourses with a slow current and muddy bottom. Although it is more aquatic than some turtles, it is also capable of climbing, and may be seen basking on fallen trees and woody debris. Fallen trees and coarse woody debris are known to be important components of wetland habitat, and may be particularly beneficial to basking turtles. Like all turtles, the stinkpot must nest on land, and shoreline real estate development is detrimental. S. odoratus is also commonly found on roads during the nesting season, having fallen victim to road mortality, particularly after heavy rainfall. It hibernates buried in the mud under logs, or in muskrat lodges.

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