Many of us have kept this delightful freshwater turtle of America’s Deep South as a pet at some time in our lives. Thankfully, these charming creatures are a common sight in good basking spots in Louisiana, such as this Bald Cypress log in a quiet slough off Corney Creek not far from Lake D’Arbonne near Farmerville.
They often slide off their sunbathing perches, logs, stumps and sunny banks at your approach, hence the nickname.
Their ‘startle distance’ can be up to 80 yds in some places, while in others you can approach to about 30 ft. Sometimes the group will scatter leaving one ‘Ambassador’ who will let you approach very closely. They are consumate balancing acrobats as the picture below shows!
These turtles can often be distinguished by patches of red behind the eyes and a yellow stripe from the cheek to the neck, but in older specimens their heads can be so dark that this is hard to make out. They grow to be about a foot in length and are great climbers and swimmers.
The Amphibians and Reptiles of Louisiana book by Dundee and Rossman note that these turtles may live to 75 yrs and the heavier females may weigh over 2.3 Kgs.