The Eastern river cooter is shy and does not venture out of water other than to bask and the water is its refuge at the first sign of danger.
Eastern River Cooter Turtle Picture

Eastern river cooters are found in Eastern and South Eastern part of the United States. Their scientific term is ‘pseudemys concinna’ and they are primarily river turtles. But, they can also be spotted in saltwater areas near the mouths of rivers. The preferred locations are rivers with moderate currents, plenty of aquatic plant life and rocky bottoms. Swamps, deep springs, ponds, lakes are also some of the water bodies where they may be found.

Eastern river cooters can grow in length of up to 12 inches. Males have long toenails on the forelimbs and females are typically bigger and more domed than their male counterparts. The head and neck are marked with thin, yellow stripes and their olive or brown shell is distinguished by lighter markings.

The second costal scute of the shell has a faint ‘c’ shaped marking which may be difficult to spot when the shell is dry. Concentric rings on the carapace are usually well-developed. These markings may fade with age.

The mating season for eastern river cooters is normally spring. The mating game starts with the male pursuing the female. If the female wants to give in to the male’s advances, she will sink to the bottom and allow the male to mount her. If she is not receptive, the female will try to out swim the male or go under any object to displace him.

The usual nesting period is from late May to June but, instances of clutches coming out as late as July are not uncommon. Eastern river cooters like their nests to be not much further than 30 meters from water and they prefer their nests on sandy or loam soils. They dig the nesting cavities by their hind feet. The color of the eggs of these cooters varies from pink to white and the eggs themselves are ellipsoidal in shape. The clutch size is usually about 20 eggs. The color of shells of the hatchlings is green with the markings being more prominent than those on the adults.

Eastern river cooters remain active throughout the year in places like Florida and the lower Gulf Coastal Plain streams. In their other areas, they are active from April to October. This species is primarily herbivorous although animal food is also consumed. Eelgrass and algae are the preferred plant choices and amongst animal foods, crayfish, tadpoles, snails and many small insects are eaten. Turtle grass is largely eaten by the salt water species of the cooters. Cooters mainly like to hunt for food in the early morning or late afternoon. They enjoy basking in the sun in between their forages.

Although not endangered, the number of river cooters has drastically gone down due to nest and hatchling predation and detrimental human activities. River cooters are eaten as food by humans, they are crushed by automobiles and are being driven from their natural habitats by pollution.

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