Mississippi Mud Turtle

Kinosternon subrubrum hippocrepis

Kinosternidae (mud and musk turtles) in the order Testudines (turtles)


A small, dark turtle with yellow stripes along the side of the head and neck, occurring in the swamps of southeastern Missouri. The upper shell is normally dark brown or black. The lower shell is normally yellow with a rich mottling of brown. There are usually two wide and irregular yellow stripes along each side of the head and neck. The tail of the male ends in a clawlike tip. Mud turtles give off an offensive, musky odor when captured.

Similar species: The yellow mud turtle (K. flavescens flavescens) is restricted to the far southwestern corner, the Kansas City region, and a few northeastern counties.


Carapace length: 3–4¾ inches.


Video of a Mississippi mud turtle.
Habitat and conservation

May be found in or near swamps, sloughs, oxbow lakes, and canals. It is often seen in shallow water and avoids flowing rivers. In spring and summer, people often see them crossing roads and highways. It overwinters in mud at the bottom of aquatic habitat, or digs a burrow in soil well away from water. Although the population of this species seems stable in our state, it is of utmost importance to preserve its natural habitats, especially remaining cypress swamps, oxbow lakes, and sloughs.


A wide variety of aquatic animals and some plants, including insects, crayfish, mussels, and various amphibians.

image of False Map Turtle Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Restricted to the counties of the Mississippi Lowlands of southeastern Missouri. Missouri’s mud turtles are quite separated geographically.


The population appears to be stable in our state, but the few remaining natural habitats of this species — the Bootheel’s cypress swamps, oxbow lakes, and sloughs — must be preserved.

Life cycle

Apparently breeds from late April to early June. Females lay 1–6 eggs, possibly up to 3 clutches per season. Eggs are usually laid in well-drained, sandy soil. Incubation time averages 105 days. Females reach maturity at 6–8 years of age, when the carapace is about 3¼ inches long. Males become mature when the carapace is 3–3¾ inches long. This species probably enters overwintering retreats in late October.

Human connections

The wetlands inhabited by these turtles are also home to many species of fish and waterfowl that are pursued by anglers and hunters. Protecting the habitat for these turtles helps fishers and duck hunters, too.

Ecosystem connections

This species is a predator of small aquatic animals, but it is also a prey species: There are many other animals that consume these turtles, especially the eggs and hatchlings.