Turtle Facts

Overview

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Photo of an ornate box turtle with its arms drawn in.
Ornate box turtle
MDC Staff

View turtles in the field guide.

All turtles lay eggs on land. Females are particular about where they lay and bury their eggs and may travel long distances overland to find a suitable location. Most turtles select well drained, sandy or loose soil to deposit their eggs, and the site usually faces south or southeast. Turtle eggs may be hard- or soft-shelled, round or elongated, depending on the species. Stinkpots, mud turtles, and soft-shells lay hard-shelled eggs containing a large amount of calcium in the egg shell. Other species lay soft, leathery-shelled eggs with a proportionately lower amount of calcium in the shell. The largest species of turtles all lay spherical eggs: alligator snapping turtles, common snapping turtle, and soft-shells. All the rest lay elongated eggs. Turtle eggs hatch either in late summer or in early fall, or the young turtles may remain in the egg or nest all winter and emerge in the spring.

Protect and Conserve Missouri’s Turtles

Although turtles have been around for millions of years, they are losing ground to farms, cities, and mines, which have replaced their habitat — swamps, marshes, and forests. Thoughtless poaching and careless driving adds more pressure to these ancient, odd-looking, and important creatures.

Help Turtles Thrive in Our State

Don’t collect turtles for pets. Wild animals deserve a natural life, and keeping them as pets can distress them to death.

Don’t shoot turtles for fun. It’s illegal, and it pressures an already stressed group of animals.

Report turtle poachers to Operation Game Thief.

Be careful when you drive, especially in spring and summer when turtles are mating, nesting, and dispersing.

Create habitat areas around your home or farm. These include wooded and marshy areas.

Facts

Turtles are no threat to game fish.

Missouri has 17 kinds of turtles, and all but three are protected.

Turtles are beneficial scavengers. They eat water plants, dead animals, snails, aquatic insects and crayfish.

Swimmers should not fear turtle. They won't bite unless picked up.