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Saturday, June 22: Stone Zoo will close at 3pm (last tickets sold at 2pm) in preparation for our event, A Wild Affair. Please plan your visit accordingly!

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field conservation staffmember tracking turtles

Wood Turtle Conservation

Once the most common freshwater turtle in eastern Mass, the wood turtle is now state threatened. We've been monitoring these turtles since 2012, and we're working alongside MassWildlife to re-access populations.

  • measuring turtle shell
  • measuring turtle shell
  • turtle
  • measuring turtle shell
  • field conservationist
  • turtle
  • measuring turtle shell
  • measuring turtle shell
  • turtle
  • measuring turtle shell
  • field conservationist
  • turtle

Zoo New England’s Field Conservation Department has been monitoring wood turtles (Glyptemys insculpta) since 2012 at a wetland just east of Hanscom Airfield, in Concord, MA. To our knowledge, this is the last remaining wood turtle population in Concord, a town where this species was known to be relatively common in the past. In fact, the wood turtle was once the most common freshwater turtle in eastern Massachusetts. Now wood turtles are listed as a species of Special Concern in Massachusetts and listed as endangered on the IUCN redlist.

We’ve partnered with Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) to conserve wood turtle populations in eastern Massachusetts. We're currently tracking wood turtles at multiple stream sites to better understand their movement patterns, habitat use, and survival rates. We're also protecting their nests from predators, and, where appropriate, headstarting hatchlings (raising juvenile hatchlings to a size where they are less vulnerable to predators).

Thanks to a generous grant from the Wild Animal Institute (WAI), we have begun a new focused study on wood turtle predation. Wood turtles seem to be especially vulnerable to predators during drought years, which are becoming more common due to climate change. Using game cameras and lifelike 3D-printed wood turtle models, we are studying predator interactions in real time and developing recommendations for reducing the number of wood turtles killed as we try to restore their populations. Read more about the study on our blog.

About the Wood Turtle

The wood turtle is so-named because its carapace, or top shell, looks like carved wood. These medium-sized turtles grow to about 6–8 inches in length and are found in small populations throughout stream habitats in Massachusetts. Though few hatchlings survive to adulthood, once wood turtles reach maturity they can live to more than 70 years. As adults, wood turtles have few predators but are vulnerable to road casualties, forestry and agricultural activities, streambank development, and pesticide and heavy metal pollution in waterways.

Wood Turtle Fact Sheet