About Western Pond Turtles

Physical description:
  • Adult pond turtles are about 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) long.
  • They weigh between 1 and 2.4 pounds (448-1100 g).
  • Their coloration is usually brown and black on the upper shell, black and yellow on the lower shell, and a darker brown color on the head and legs. (1)
Upper and Lower Shell of the Western Pond Turtle


Western pond turtles are in the phylum Chordata and class Reptilia. There are two common types: the Northwestern Pond Turtle (Clemmys marmorata marmorata) and the Southwestern Pond Turtle (Clammys marmorata pallida). They are in the genus Clammys. There is debate about whether the Western Pond Turtle should be classified in the Clammys genus, or should have its own genus, the Actinemys genus. (2)

Distribution and status:
Western pond turtles range from the Puget Sound to more southern areas, such as Sacramento Valley, Monterey County, and Baja California Norte. Factors such as predation and habitat loss have caused a decline in their population.


Western pond turtles are not territorial, but they commonly fight with one another and will often display aggressive gestures. They gather their food in the late afternoon and early evening. Their optimal temperature is 60o F; therefore, under high temperatures they tend to move toward colder areas. (2)

Western pond turtles inhabit rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, wetlands, reservoirs, muddy bottoms, brackish waters, and canals. They can be found in waters as cold as 34o F and rarely in waters with high temperatures (e.g. 104 o F). They require dry areas for nesting and basking. (2)


Western pond turtles are omnivorous feeders. They eat plants, insects, and fish. Adult pond turtles Stend to eat more plant matter than younger ones.
Life span:

Western pond turtles live to be about 50 years old. Adult males tend to live longer than females.


Pond turtles do not usually begin breeding until they are about 10 to 14 years old. Nesting lasts from May to July, and incubation lasts 80 to 100 days. Hatchlings spend winter in the nest and go to water in the spring. Clutch size ranges from 1 to 3 eggs, but the number of young that survive is often reduced because nest predation is a common problem. (1)

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