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Species at Risk

Stinkpot Turtle

Sternotherus odoratus

What is the status of the Stinkpot turtle?

The stinkpot turtle was listed as “threatened” federally by the COSEWIC in May 2002. Is listed on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act, which provides protection under federal law.

The stinkpot turtle is also listed as “threatened” provincially in Ontario by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources' Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO).

Young stinkpot turtle on a ruler for measurement.
The stinkpot turtle is the smallest turtle in Canada, making it the most vulnerable to predation (from raptors etc.), even when mature.
© Parks Canada / SLINP Image Library

Why is the Stinkpot turtle in danger?

The major factor leading to the decline of Stinkpot turtles in Canada is shoreline development and the draining of wetlands.

Shoreline vegetation and adjacent aquatic plants provide the suitable that stinkpot turtles require to live. As aquatic vegetation is removed, so is the food source for stinkpot turtles. Rotten logs and abandoned muskrat houses along shorelines are required by stinkpot turtles, as they provide necessary nesting habitat. When the shoreline is altered there is less habitat to sustain stinkpot populations.

Wetland drainage has also been a major factor contributing to stinkpot turtle habitat decline. The turtles do not have the capability of traveling overland to another area when a wetland is drained. Being highly aquatic, they will dehydrate quickly and face mortality when there is insufficient water available.

Stinkpot turtles have been extirpated from particular areas due to habitat destruction, and it is estimated that there has been a 30%-50% decline in the overall population. Because of their secretive nature, stinkpot turtles can disappear from an area without anyone ever noticing.