Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle
Wisconsin status: common but declining
The spiny softshell turtle looks a lot like its relative the midland smooth softshell turtle, but there are some differences. The spiny softshell has two yellow, black-bordered lines along each side of its head, a row of spines along the front edge of the carapace (top shell), and nostrils in the shape of a "C." Young turtles and male turtles have olive-gray carapaces with small black markings that often look like the shape of a thin donut. Adult females have dark olive or tan carapaces with brown and gray mottling. And, there's another difference. Unlike the smooth softshells, spiny softshells are often aggressive when grabbed and can bite hard! So, take care not to handle these critters.
These turtles can be found in large rivers, lakes and reservoirs, especially those with muddy or sandy bottoms. Young turtles spend a lot of time buried under the bottom in shallow water, especially at night. This keeps them hidden when they're not active.
They feed on fish, invertebrates, mollusks, and carrion (dead stuff).