Turtle, Musk

In the north Ontario, Canada, downwards on the east coast from Maine to Florida and west to Texas and southern Wisconsin.

Wetlands, marshes, small streams, shallow ditches, bogs, wet woods.
Common musk turtles spend extensive periods of time underwater feeding on the soft bottom of slow moving or still bodies of fresh water that supports a diversity of aquatic vegetation.

Size Range from 3 – 5.5 inches

Can live between 30 – 55 years.


  • Mating takes place from April until November.
  • The female lays eggs close to the water from February to June.
  • Eggs hatch in 2 – 3 months.
  • Hatchlings are very aggressive.

Wild: In the wild aquatic insects, fish eggs, leeches, clams, snails, tadpoles, algae, carrion and plants.
Zoo: Catfish chow, shiners, paddlefish food twice weekly.


  • Although strictly aquatic, at times it does bask in the sun.
  • As a form of defense, when threatened, it releases a foul smelling liquid from musk glands.
  • This ‘foul smell’ has earned it a nickname of ‘stink pot’ or ‘stinking Jim’.
  • The male can be aggressive and will not think twice about biting.


  • Musk Turtles can be identified by a light stripe on each side of the head down to the long neck.
  • It has barbells on the chin and throat.
  • The smooth, elongated, domed carapace color ranges from an olive brown to a dark green.
  • Since this turtle spends extended periods under water, it often has algae and a number of leeches on its shell.

Holds no federal conservation status in the US but has declined notably in some areas. Considered at risk in Canada and threatened in Iowa. Sensitive to degradation of wetlands.


  1. Simon & Schuster’s Guide to Reptile and Amphibians of the World, Massimo Capula, Simon and Schuster, Inc., New York, London, Toronto, Sydney, Tokyo, Singapore, 1989