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Adults weigh approximately 1.5 to 2.5 pounds and reach a length of 5 to 9 inches. The carapace is typically brown or greyish-brown, sometimes with ray-like yellow streaking. The upper head is usually black, and upperparts of the limbs and tail are grey to greyish-brown, or even black with yellow spots. By contrast, the vividly-coloured underparts range from yellow in specimens from western (Great Lakes) parts of the species’ range, to orangish-yellow or orange in the central part of its range, to orange-red or ‘salmon-red’ in the northeast. Hatchling turtles have flat, non-sculpted, almost circular carapaces, and lack any of the adult yellow, orange or red pigment. The yellow plastron is also distinctive, with its pattern of dark blotches along the outside edge of each scute. Wood Turtles are omnivores, eating plants, berries, mushrooms, invertebrates and carrion. Slugs and earthworms are relished. Females nest in spring to early summer, depositing anywhere from 4 to 12 eggs into a nest dug out of soft soil, typically in sandy deposits along stream banks or other areas of loose soil. The eggs hatch in late summer or fall and the young turtles may either emerge or remain in the nest for winter hibernation. As soon as the young turtles hatch, they are on their own and receive no care from the adults.
Wood turtles use aquatic and terrestrial habitats at different times of the year. Their habitats include rivers and large streams, riparian forests (adjacent to rivers), wetlands, hayfields, and other early successional habitats. Terrestrial habitat that is usually within 1,000 feet of a suitable stream or river is most likely used. Preferred stream conditions include moderate flow, sandy or gravelly bottoms, and muddy banks.