Northern Red-bellied Cooter
Photo of Northern Red-bellied Cooter courtesy of John White.
A large basking turtle, easily identified due to its
Reddish plastron (bottom shell).
Domed carapace (top shell) with vertical reddish line on
the three front-most costal scutes (these are on either side of the
centerline or “vertebral” scutes). The latter may be faded to
reddish-brown in older individuals.
Coloration and pattern of the carapace is variable.
The upper jaw has a central notch bordered by two
Photo of Habitat for Northern Red-bellied Cooter
courtesy of Rebecca Chalmers.
Usually associated with deep-water areas of coastal plain rivers and
associated floodplain marshes, and ponds. Typically found in areas with a
soft silt bottom, lots of aquatic vegetation and numerous basking sites,
such as logs and debris. Can also be found in brackish water, near river
Look for basking turtles from March to November along the shorelines of
large Eastern Shore rivers. This species is shy and difficult to approach,
so it is best to view from afar with binoculars.
Canoe or kayak in quietly for a close-up view.
Primarily a Coastal Plain species but can be found as far west as Allegany
580 Taylor Ave., Annapolis MD 21401
Call toll-free in *Maryland* at 1-877-620-8DNR (8367)
Out of State: 410-260-8DNR (8367)