Turtles of Wisconsin
Turtles belong to the animal kingdom, phylum Chordata (animals with backbones). They are reptiles covered by scales or horny plantes. Turtles are exothermic or cold-blooded, and unlike humans, they get their body heat from outside sources like the sun. There are approximately 260 species worldwide, 55 native to the United States, and 11 species in Wisconsin. Any idea which turtle species in Wisconsin is the most abundant? It's the painted turtle.
Wisconsin's turtles represent four of the turtle families. There are the mud and musk turtles (one species); the snapping turtles (one species); box and water turtles (seven species); and the softshell turtles (two species). One of Wisconsin's turtles--the ornate box turtle is Wisconsin's only terrestrial (totally land-dwelling) turtle.
Where Do They Go in Winter? Ten of Wisconsin's 11 turtle species spend the winter under water. Some bury themselves under the bottom while others lie on the bottom and remain motionless. Recent studies show that many turtles don't actually hibernate. The remain semi-active, moving about during the winter. Because winter takes a toll on body reserves, many species begin to emerge as soon as the ice starts to melt around lakes, ponds, and streambanks. Turtles will come to bask on sunny days in early spring when air temperatures near 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, the ice has to have melted enough so that they can get to the shoreline.
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