While turtles may not be the most famous reptile that is found in the Everglades, they should certainly not be forgotten. There are over a dozen known species of turtles currently living in and around the Everglades today, and even a few species of tortoise and terrapin as well. Unfortunately, many of the turtle species that can be found in and around Florida waters are endangered or under serious threat of becoming so, and are under special regulation for protection.
Here are four of the most common types of turtles found in the Everglades today:
Sometimes referred to simply as the loggerhead or loggerhead sea turtle, this species of saltwater turtle can be found throughout the world, though it has a strong preference for warmer waters around the equator. While they do spend most of their time in the open ocean, they can be found along coastlines and in brackish estuaries, such as those that occur in the Florida Everglades. And while baby loggerheads are quite susceptible to predators, adults can grow quite large – reaching weights of up to 1,000 pounds while living up to 70 years.
While the hawksbill sea turtle shares much of the same habitats as the loggerhead, with an average size of around 180 pounds it is a much smaller species of turtle. Other than its size, what distinguishes this turtle from others in the areas in which it lives – as well as the reason it got its name – is its distinctive hawk-like beak. Additionally, this interesting turtle species was the first known reptile to show signs of biofluorescence, a characteristic which has made their shells highly collectable and valuable while sadly leading to their near extinction.
Florida Box Turtle
In comparison to the previously mentioned turtles, Florida box turtles are much smaller and more docile. And, interestingly, while this species possesses both sharp beaks and sharp claws, they are actually omnivores with a preference towards fruits, vegetables, and fungi, in addition to small insects. This is one species of turtle that humans are allowed to keep as pets, though no more than two are allowed in a single residence without a special reptile permit.
Florida Red-Bellied Cooter
The red-bellied cooter is another small species of turtle, rarely weighing in at over 10 pounds and with a distinctive red-tinged belly to give it its name. Perhaps what is most interesting about this specific type of turtle is their seeming fearlessness around alligators – they can often be seen sharing logs or other basking areas with alligators, and are even known to lay their eggs in the nesting mounds of these fearsome predators. Like the Florida box turtle, red-bellied cooters are often kept as pets and are commonly exported all around the world.
To see these turtles and more of Florida’s exciting natural residents, consider an Everglades airboat tour adventure for your family this season. As most of these turtles are protected species and must be enjoyed from a distance, an airboat ride is truly the best way to have fun while giving mother nature its much-deserved space and respect.