Western Pond Turtle

How to Identify the Western Pond Turtle?

The Western Pond Turtle (Actinemys marmorata) is a small freshwater turtle with a yellowish or olive-brown, smooth shell (carapace). The carapace is low in profile and 8 - 18 cm in length in adults. The underside (plastron) is yellowish, sometimes with irregular black markings. The head, tail, and legs are yellowish with dark mottling. The head may have small black spots or flecking. Unlike adults, juveniles have a slightly keeled carapace and a proportionally longer tail. The Western Pond Turtle is rather plain-looking in comparison with the more brightly coloured Western Painted Turtle and introduced Sliders.


Western Pond Turtle (Bill Leonard photo)

Distribution and Habits

The Western Pond Turtle is endemic to western North America and is currently found in western Washington, Oregon and California and in Baja California, Mexico. It's distribution in Washington is patchy, and it has disappeared from many sites. There are only a small number of historical records from British Columbia, where the species is considered extirpated.

Western Pond Turtles inhabit shallow ponds and wetlands with abundant vegetation. They reputedly compete for basking sites and show aggressive displays towards each other. As a result, they are often seen singly or widely spaced when basking, rather than aggregated as are Western Painted Turtles and sliders.


Status in Canada

National status: Extirpated (COSEWIC 2002)

BC Status: Red List, Extirpated

In Canada, the Western Pond Turtle is known only from historical records; there are no observations since 1966. There are three old, confirmed records and several anecdotal observations of the species from the Lower Fraser Valley, B.C., but the species has not been seen since. The confirmed records are from 1933, 1936 and 1959[1]. Some authors have questioned whether the species has ever been naturally present in B.C., as opposed to early introductions[2]. Following Cook et al. (2005)[2], the Canadian Amphibian and Reptile Network website (2011) states that this species "was never endemic to Canada. It was introduced into Burnaby Lake and has subsequently been extirpated from Canada". In contrast, COSEWIC (2002)[1] concluded that "there is no biogeographic basis for this turtle‚Äôs range not to have extended into Canada."

There have been no surveys specifically targeting this species in southwestern B.C., but numerous surveys for the Western Painted Turtle have been undertaken in the Lower Fraser Valley, Sunshine Coast, and Vancouver Island since 2008. The Western Pond Turtle has not been found.

More Information about the Western Pond Turtle

Department of Fish and Wildlife Oregon fact sheet

Western pond Turtle Wikipedia site

Reptiles of BC - Western Pond Turtle

Spinks et al. 2002. Survival of the western pond turtle (Emys marmorata) in an urban California environment

COSEWIC 2002: Assessment and Status Report on the Pacific Pond Turtle, Clemmys marmorata, in Canada

Western Painted Turtle Conservation