Common musk turtle

A small freshwater turtle is known for its unpleasant smell


A small, hardy turtle species indigenous to the eastern United States. This turtle is named for the musky odor it emits from glands on the sides of its body when disturbed or threatened, which serves as an effective defense mechanism against predators.

The preferred habitats of the common musk turtle are diverse, ranging from slow-moving streams to densely vegetated ponds, rivers, and clear-water lakes. They require permanent bodies of water with soft substrates for burrowing and plenty of aquatic vegetation. The presence of fallen logs and overhanging banks also provide important basking and hiding spots.

Despite their preference for water, musk turtles will occasionally venture overland, especially during rainy weather or when seeking new habitats. However, such excursions are rare, and these turtles are highly adapted to aquatic life.

Their diet is varied and omnivorous but leans heavily towards carnivory, including small fish, mollusks, crustaceans, and aquatic insects. They will also consume some aquatic plants and are not averse to scavenging, which makes them opportunistic feeders within their ecosystems.

Common Musk Turtles are noted for their distinct personality traits. They can be quite temperamental and are known to bite if they feel threatened, a behavior that, combined with their musky defense, usually dissuades most would-be predators and handlers.


Population est.
Québec, Ontario
United States

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No