P1200377

P1200382

Unfortunately the only specimen we were able to find of this turtle was of this one found dead, 1/2 mile from mouth of Womack Creek.  It’s carapace (shell)  was over 15 inches long.

Family:  Chelydridae

Genus/Species: Macrochelys temminckii

Habitat:  panhandle and in the Big Bend area from the Escambia River east to the Suwanee River.  Persistently aquatic.

On state endangered and threatened list.    Rule 68A-27.005, Florida Administrative code makes it illegal to take, possess, sell this species.  Currently under review for federal listing by US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Physical description:  largest of the freshwater turtles in North America.  Males can lengths to 29 inches and 249 pounds; females 22 inches and 62 pounds.  The species above had a carapace about 15 inches long and was at least 25 inches long — it was missing parts of its tail and head.  Three spines which run the length of its carapace.  Generally gray/brown with black splotches on shell.   Has a long tail.

Diet omnivorous:  plants, fish, frogs,  musk turtles and acorns.

Life history:  courting February-April; nesting late April-middle May in western Florida.  Nests in sandy soils with 65.6 feet from water. (There are scant areas along Womack Creek which have sand and hardly any banks which do are not covered with water during a 24 hour period.) 17-52 eggs in a clutch, one clutch a year. Incubation 100-110 days, hatching about mid-August.  Sex of turtles determined by ambient temperature of the egg (77-80.6F will produce males; 84.2-86F, females.) Maturity at 11-13 years of age.

Predators:  humans and raccoons, wild hogs and red imported fire ants on eggs.

History:  Was caught for food and in the 60’s and 70’s;  over harvesting caused decline in population. Hatchlings were also caught for the pet trade.  Restrictions on catch in the 70’s; currently illegal to catch, possess, sell alligator turtles. Turtles still get caught on bush lines (lines suspended from trees on creek — of which they are few on the lower part of the creek, particularly those set for catfish) and nets.

Source: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website, R.D. & Patricia P Barlett, Florida’s Turtles, Lizards and Crocodilians, UF Press, 2011.