List of Turtle Species in Oregon (ID + Pics)

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Alligator snapping turtle
A number of non-native turtles have been found in Oregon, such as the alligator snapping turtle (pictured). John P Friel / CC BY 4.0

Oregon is no stranger to the drought conditions that plague California and its neighboring states with increasing intensity and duration over the past decade. Such conditions cause freshwater lakes and pools to dry up, reducing available habitat for native turtles.

Only two species are native to Oregon, the painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) and the western pond turtle (Actinemys marmorata), however, many more species are present in the state and actively compete with native turtles for food and habitat. Egg predators, like the invasive raccoon, also threaten native turtle species, which leave their eggs unprotected in the substrate.

The pet trade is a constant source of introduced turtles in Oregon. At least one instance of a Florida softshell turtle is present in the state. This species is not native to the state, and no reported breeding populations exist. Additionally, an alligator snapping turtle was caught in 2013, but there are no breeding populations in Oregon. Vendors or pet owners likely illegally brought these animals into the state and escaped or released them.

Oregon has few turtle species, but those native to the region are threatened by invasive species and drought. The Oregon Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is tasked with combating invasive species and mitigating their effects. In addition to freshwater turtles, three sea turtle species might be spotted along the Oregon coastline.


Oregon Turtles

1) Painted turtle (Chrysemys picta)

Western painted turtle
The western painted turtle (pictured) is the only painted turtle subspecies present in Oregon. John Krampl / CC BY 4.0
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Other common names: Eastern painted turtle
  • Adult weight: 1 lb (0.5 kg)
  • Adult carapace length: 5 – 6 in (13 – 15 cm)
  • Maximum verified size: 10 in (25 cm)
  • Lifespan (wild): 20 – 25 years
  • Lifespan (captive): 20 – 25 years
  • Conservation status: Least concern

Painted turtles are predominantly dark green turtles with an appearance akin to the much more common red-eared slider. However, painted turtles lack the red-eared slider’s characteristic red ear spot and have vibrantly colored plastrons. The only subspecies present in Oregon is the western painted turtle (C. p. bellii), along the Columbia and Willamette rivers.

Painted turtles are common in wetlands and marshes, often co-occurring with the invasive red-eared slider, although painted turtles tend to be smaller than sliders. They have an omnivorous diet, including various invertebrates, fish, and plant materials. In addition, young painted turtles are prey for mammals, birds, and predatory fish making this species a critical member of the local food chain.

This species is often kept as a pet because of its pretty coloration and docile nature. Potential painted turtle parents should acquire their new pet from a reputable breeder rather than from the wild. While not federally endangered, some states report declines in painted turtle populations, and taking this species from the wild is illegal. In Oregon, native painted turtle populations are dwindling and must be protected to prevent further declines.


2) Western pond turtle (Actinemys marmorata)

Western pond turtles basking
During the summer, western pond turtles can be found in freshwater ponds, lakes, and sluggish rivers. Matt D’Agrosa / CC BY 4.0
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Other common names: Pacific pond turtle, northwestern pond turtle, Pacific mud turtle
  • Adult weight: 1.3 lbs (0.6 kg)
  • Adult carapace length: 6 in (15 cm)
  • Maximum verified size: 8.27 in (21 cm)
  • Lifespan (wild): 50 years
  • Lifespan (captive): 70 years but can live longer than 100 years
  • Conservation status: Vulnerable

Western pond turtles are found within a small range along the western coast from central California to southern Washington. They are found in the Coast Range, Cascades, Klamath Mountains, and Willamette Valley in Oregon. They are small, dark green turtles with long tails and large heads that house powerful jaw muscles. Their underbellies are yellow with large, dark spots. This characteristic can help distinguish them from similar species like painted turtles and pond sliders.

Western pond turtles frequent freshwater ponds, lakes, and sluggish rivers during the summer. However, during the winter, western pond turtles travel to terrestrial habitats in search of burrows to use as overwintering sites. When temperatures drop, they enter into brumation, a hibernation undergone by reptiles. While traveling to brumation spots and nests, western pond turtles are incredibly vulnerable to predation and vehicle strikes.

This species is threatened by habitat loss, invasive plant species that restrict individuals’ movement across the landscape, introduced predators like bullfrogs and large predatory fish, and competition with other turtles like the pond slider. Western pond turtles are especially vulnerable when traveling to nesting sites and when droughts plague the west coast. During these periods, this species relies on permanent pools that are declining in abundance. Considerable conservation efforts are underway to preserve and restore western pond turtle habitats and raise hatchlings for later release.


3) Pond slider (Trachemys scripta)

Red-eared pond slider
The red-eared pond slider is the most well-known pond slider subspecies and is the only subspecies found in Oregon. ncb1221 / CC BY 4.0
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Other common names: Sliders
  • Adult weight: 7 lbs (3.2 kg)
  • Adult carapace length: 4 – 11.5 in (10 – 29 cm)
  • Maximum verified size: 14.5 in (37 cm)
  • Lifespan (wild): 20 years
  • Lifespan (captive): 40 years
  • Conservation status: Least concern

These hardy turtles have successfully invaded several states, often hitching a ride with humans to new locations as pets. Pond sliders are an especially problematic species in Oregon, where they compete with native painted turtles and pond turtles for food and nesting sites. They can also spread diseases to which native turtles have no immunity. There are three recognized subspecies, and the only one present in Oregon is the red-eared slider (T. s. elegans), perhaps the most well-known and widespread subspecies.

Another factor that helps them spread is their generalist diet. Pond sliders can consume plants, insects, eggs, and even small fish. In turn, pond sliders become prey for other animals like gar, snakes, coyotes, and opossums. Young pond sliders are particularly vulnerable and more likely to become food for other animals. Unfortunately for native species, pond sliders reproduce quickly, with females producing up to four nests a year with between 2 and 20 eggs in each. While young turtles are vulnerable, this high reproductive rate ensures that at least a handful reach adulthood.

Pond sliders have a flattened shell to help them glide through the water. This shell shape is essential because pond sliders spend almost their entire lives in the water. They prefer warm, slow-moving waters where they can feed and bask without the threat of predators. Pond sliders even mate in the water.


4) Common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina)

Common snapping turtle
Young common snapping turtles are vulnerable to being run over by cars or attacked by large wading birds. Court Harding / CC BY 4.0
  • Family: Chelydridae
  • Other common names: Snapper
  • Adult weight: 10 – 35 lbs (4.5 – 16 kg)
  • Adult carapace length: 8 – 14 in (20 – 36 cm)
  • Maximum verified size: 19.3 in (49 cm); 75 lbs (34 kg)
  • Lifespan (wild): 30 years
  • Lifespan (captive): 47 years
  • Conservation status: Least concern

The common snapping turtle is a giant, intimidating turtle with solid jaws that, as its name suggests, can give a nasty bite. In addition, these turtles have slightly keeled shell scutes, thick legs with long claws, pointed beaks, and long tails. As babies, these dragon-like turtles are small and peculiar, but potential turtle pet owners should think twice before bringing home a baby snapping turtle.

Their strong jaws allow them to hunt various prey, from crayfish and fish to small mammals and turtles. However, they are not strict carnivores and can use their jaws to slice aquatic plants into digestible pieces. In Oregon, they consume native species which have not evolved with this type of predator, giving the common snapping turtle an advantage in introduced environments. Additionally, only some predators in Oregon will take on a snapping turtle.

During spring to summer nesting season, female snapping turtles will search for a place to dig a nest and lay their eggs. Unfortunately, female turtles are sometimes attracted to the warm, soft dirt along roadsides and choose to construct their nests in less-than-ideal locations. As a result, road mortality is a significant contributor to hatchling turtle mortality.

Roadways are not the only threat to hatchling common snapping turtles. Young turtles are preyed on by large wading birds like herons, egrets, raccoons, and giant turtles. Adults, however, are not as vulnerable. With their large size, armored shell, staggeringly strong bite, and aggressive attitudes, adult common snapping turtles are not animals predators will eagerly mess with.


5) Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta)

Loggerhead sea turtle
Adult loggerhead sea turtles can be found in a variety of coastal habitats, including salt marshes and coral reefs. Yves Bas / CC BY 4.0
  • Family: Cheloniidae
  • Other common names: Loggerhead
  • Adult weight: 155 – 375 lbs (70 – 170 kg)
  • Adult carapace length: 36 in (91 cm)
  • Maximum verified size: 84 in (213 cm)
  • Lifespan (wild): 80 years
  • Lifespan (captive): 80 years
  • Conservation status: Vulnerable

In addition to two native freshwater turtle species, Oregon is home to several sea-faring turtles. The first on this list is the loggerhead sea turtle. These large, oceanic turtles have brown shells marked with light markings. They can be distinguished from other sea turtles using the characteristics described here. This species has large, powerful jaws, which they use to crush the shells of mollusks and other oceanic invertebrates.

They inhabit all the world’s major oceans, but different age classes occupy separate niches. For example, baby loggerheads are closely associated with mats of floating seaweed, and they gradually migrate to coastal waters as they age. As adults, they can be found in various coastal habitats, from salt marshes to coral reefs. During the breeding season, male loggerhead sea turtles migrate to breeding grounds where they wait for females. After mating, female sea turtles will move onto land to dig a nest and deposit eggs. Female loggerhead sea turtles may lay multiple clutches yearly with between 23 and 195 eggs per nest. This species needs to produce many young because young sea turtles are very vulnerable, and most do not survive the trip from the nest to the ocean.

Despite having a large amount of habitat spatially, many loggerhead sea turtle populations are genetically isolated from one another because males and females return to the same breeding sites each year, so gene flow between breeding sites is uncommon. Loggerhead sea turtle populations also suffer from climate change, pollution, and pathogens. In addition, their nesting sites are sometimes developed into coastal cities, and sea turtles are often caught in nets made for fish.


6) Leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)

Leatherback sea turtle on shore
Female leatherback sea turtles migrate long distances to lay their eggs in nesting sites. Chris Quirin / CC BY 4.0
  • Family: Dermochelyidae
  • Other common names: Leatherback
  • Adult weight: 550 – 1500 lbs (249 – 680 kg)
  • Adult carapace length: 4 – 6 ft (1.2 – 1.8 m)
  • Maximum verified size: 10 ft (3 m); 2019 lbs (916 kg)
  • Lifespan (wild): 50+ years
  • Lifespan (captive): Unknown; not commonly kept in captivity
  • Conservation status: Vulnerable

Coastal Oregon is a critical habitat for leatherbacks, a sea turtle species that belongs to a rather ancient lineage. They are the only member of their genus and the only surviving member of the family Dermochelyidae. Leatherbacks have a unique appearance, possessing bony plates covered in the skin rather than hard scutes. They also lack claws on their fins.

This species can be found hunting along the coast, but they do not nest on Oregon’s beaches. Leatherback sea turtles inhabit the world’s warm oceans. These creatures are large and long-lived. One characteristic accompanying these traits is a relatively late age of sexual maturity: leatherback sea turtles reach sexual maturity between 15 and 25 years of age. During the breeding season, females will migrate long distances to nesting sites, a few of which are found in Puerto Rico, Florida, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This species also nests on many different continents. Throughout the season, females will create many nests during each breeding year and deposit between 50 and 170 eggs into each.

The leatherback’s diet comprises soft-bodied invertebrates like squids and jellyfish. They possess delicate, scissor-like beaks which allow them to cut through their prey and process prey items into small chunks.

Like other species of sea turtle, leatherback populations are declining. The most significant threats to leatherback sea turtles are commercial fishing industries which catch sea turtles by accident, and plastic pollution that ensnares giant tortoises, causing health issues and drowning. Habitat loss, particularly the loss of nesting sites, is also a significant contributor to mortality.


7) Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas)

Green sea turtle underwater
Green sea turtles like to feed in Oregon, but they do not nest in-state. Kseniia Marianna Prondzynska / CC BY 4.0
  • Family: Cheloniidae
  • Other common names: Common green sea turtle
  • Adult weight: 240 – 420 lbs (109 – 191 kg)
  • Adult carapace length: 3 – 4 ft (0.9 – 1.2 m)
  • Maximum verified size: 5 ft (1.5 m); 871 lbs (395 kg)
  • Lifespan (wild): 70+ years
  • Lifespan (captive): Unknown
  • Conservation status: Endangered

Unlike the leatherback sea turtle, the green sea turtle belongs to the family Cheloniidae. This family contains all other turtle species known as hard-shelled sea turtles. This group has rigid plates, or scutes, on the external surface of their shells. Green sea turtles have five scutes in the center of their shells and four flanking in the center row.

This species is native to warmer tropical and temperate oceans and often migrates between feeding and breeding grounds. Oregon is a feeding territory for many sea turtle species, green sea turtles included. However, they do not nest on Oregon’s shores. Instead, adult green sea turtles may migrate more than one thousand miles between feeding and breeding territories.

Only female green sea turtles venture onto land; males spend their entire lives in the water. Nesting occurs in the spring. During this season, females will construct several nests and deposit over one hundred eggs into each nest. After hatching, young green sea turtles spend several years in the open ocean until they are large enough to survive in seagrass beds. Their diet consists mainly of seagrasses, sponges, and aquatic invertebrates.

Green sea turtles face many threats and are classified as endangered by the IUCN. Among the typical threats listed under other turtle entries on this page, the intentional harvest of green sea turtle eggs severely reduces the number of offspring that make it to the ocean.

Keyla P
About the author

Keyla P

I have a bachelor’s degree in Natural Resources focusing on Wildlife Ecology and a minor in Entomology. I am also an award-winning student researcher with five years of experience with wildlife-related research.

Read more about Pond Informer.

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