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Species at Risk

Stinkpot Turtle

Sternotherus odoratus

What is the Stinkpot turtle?

The stinkpot turtle is a small turtle that has a domed carapace (top of the shell) and a very small plastron (bottom of the shell). It has two yellow lines that extend from the nose and flare out to either sides of the eye. Male turtles can be distinguished from female turtles by two patches of rough scales that occur on the inner side of each hind leg, and by a longer, thicker tail with a thick spine at the tip.

Close-up of the head of a stinkpot turtle.
Stinkpots can be distinguished from other turtles by its prominent yellow lines on the side of its head.
© Parks Canada / SLINP Image Library

Where is the Stinkpot turtle found?

Stinkpot turtles are rarely found on land. The only time these turtles are required to move onto land is during nesting, where they will lay their eggs along shoreline areas. Unlike other turtles that bask out of water, stinkpot turtles prefer to bask a few inches underwater during the day. They are poor swimmers and prefer to crawl along the bottoms of water bodies

Stinkpot turtles require shallow bodies of water with a soft substrate and little or no current. In Canada the stinkpot turtle occurs in southern Ontario, extending north to Georgian Bay, in wetland communities and along lake and river edges. Areas that offer some protection to stinkpot turtle populations in Ontario include St. Lawrence Islands National Park, Georgian Bay Islands National Park, Point Pelee National Park, Bruce Peninsula National Park, Rideau Canal National Historic Site and the Trent- Severn Waterway National Historic Site. Most of the turtle’s lifecycle occurs in water, which is often outside of Parks Canada jurisdiction, although nesting sites are found on Parks Canada property. By protecting these sites Parks Canada is helping to ensure that stinkpot turtle populations are secure in local areas.

Who knew?

Stinkpot turtles are poor swimmers and walkers, however they are known to be excellent tree climbers. On very rare occasions they have been know to climb up to 2 metres up a tree.