Class Reptilia

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Order Testudines – Turtles
Freshwater and land turtles
____ Florida softshell turtle (Apalone ferox) Common
The softshell frequents ponds and sloughs. It is relatively common, but rarely observed. They sometimes travel across sand dunes apparently seeking nesting sites.
____ Snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) Common
Ponds, sloughs, Whitney Lake, and even brackish water on the west side of the island provide habitat for this species. They are usually observed when they are seeking terrestrial nesting sites.
____ Chicken turtle (Deirochelys reticularia) Uncommon
This turtle is more terrestrial than other fresh water turtles and may be found in shallow waters of ponds, ditches, and sloughs. Although they have been recorded from many Georgia barrier islands, they are never abundant.
____ Gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) Uncommon
This terrestrial turtle prefers scattered, open, grassy locations including the interdune zone. Small colonies exist at Davisville (Little Greyfield) and Stafford; but isolated individuals occur elsewhere. Some individuals have been introduced from mainland, but the history of this species on the island is unclear.
____ Striped mud turtle (Kinosternon baurii) Common
The striped mud turtle is more terrestrial than the Eastern mud turtle and has not been found on the island near the salt marsh. It does sometimes wander in open interdune areas, and is active in the sloughs and ponds.
____ Eastern mud turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum) Common
This is a tough little turtle that may be found in slightly brackish water in the high marsh, as well as in ponds and sloughs. It has not been observed basking on the island and is most active at night.
____ Diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) Seasonally
Found in salt marshes around the island; this is a brackish water turtle. They nest on sandy beaches and loose soils on nearby high ground. Numbers are greatly reduced from a century ago.
____ Florida red-bellied turtle (Pseudemys nelsoni) Common
The red-belly was thought to be strictly a Florida species until 1980 when it was reported from the Okefenokee Swamp. Older specimens attain an extremely large size. Vertical red streaks on the sides of the carapace are usually evident.
____ Yellow-bellied turtle (Trachemys scripta) Common
The yellow-belly has a wide distribution in the southeastern U.S. On the island it is frequently seen basking on logs in fresh water. The carapace of older individuals is heavy and noticeably longitudinally rugose.
Sea turtles
Although belonging to the Testudines, they are treated separately here because all species are on the endangered species list.
____ Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) Threatened
May through August, loggerheads nest at night on the ocean and river beaches. Cumberland Island has between 100 and 300 nests per year and about 65 dead specimens wash up on the ocean beach annually.
____ Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) Endangered
A herbivorous turtle that grazes on algae and salt marsh grasses in salt water habitats. Greens rarely nest in Georgia, but a few wash up dead on the ocean beach each year.
____ Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) Endangered
Leatherbacks are animals of the open ocean where they feed primarily on jellyfish. Very rarely do leatherbacks nest along the Georgia Coast or on Cumberland Island. A very few wash up dead on the ocean beach each year.
____ Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) Endangered
A very rare visitor to Georgia waters, hawksbills are tropical turtles. There are only two confirmed Georgia records. Hawksbills feed on sponges and sessile invertebrates.
____ Kemp’s ridley turtle (Lepidochelys kempii ) Endangered
Juvenile Kemp’s ridleys forage in shallow ocean and salt marsh waters around the island. This is the most endangered sea turtle in U. S. waters, yet about a dozen wash up dead each year on the ocean and river beaches.
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