Escambia map turtles, their eggs, or parts thereof that are taken from the wild cannot be bought, sold or possessed. Escambia map turtles may not be removed from the wild due to similarity of appearance to the state-designated threatened Barbour’s map turtle. There is a possession limit of two Escambia map turtles per person.
Escambia map turtles are sexually dimorphic turtles, meaning that male and female turtles appear differently from each other. Adult females have a top shell, or carapace, length of 8-11 inches and they are larger than adult males, which have a carapace length of 3-5 inches. Females have enlarged heads to crush mollusks and snails. Males and juveniles have a high-domed carapace and vertebral keel with ridges and a black stripe. Females have a rounded vertebral keel and a less pronounced dome-shaped carapace.
The upper shell is gray to olive with a darker black stripe along the upper ridge while the underside is yellow. Their skin is often brown or olive with yellow-orange lines and spots. Their heads have yellow blotches next to and between the eyes, and black and yellow stripes along the neck. This species may hybridize with Barbour’s map turtles in areas where their ranges overlap.
Escambia map turtles are active year-round but are observed more often from late spring through fall. They prefer to spend time under the sun when water levels are high and the air temperature is greater than the water temperature, typically in early Spring. These turtles are typically found basking in the sun on logs or the riverbank and are quick to drop into the water when alarmed by disturbances.
Males mature in 3-4 years, and females mature around 14 years. Mating occurs from September to November and nesting occurs from April to July. There are typically 6-13 eggs in a clutch and older turtles may nest up to seven times per nesting season.
Escambia map turtles are carnivorous. Juvenile females feed primarily on insects, and adult females feed on mussels, snails and crayfish. Males and juveniles feed primarily on caddisfly larvae and will also consume mussels, dragonfly larvae, snails, and other arthropods.
Escambia map turtles occur in the Escambia, Yellow, and Choctawhatchee river systems of western Florida and southern Alabama. They inhabit medium to large rivers with good flow and prefer rivers with sandy bottoms, using sand bars and river berms for nesting.
Escambia map turtles face a variety of threats, including:
- Habitat loss and degradation: Salvage logging, contamination, all-terrain vehicles in nesting areas and impoundments are potential future concerns for map turtles. Water pollution due to nearby factories and public ownership along the Escambia and Yellow rivers have degraded the water quality in the rivers, affecting the turtles’ health and their filter-feeding prey.
- Predation: Raccoons, skunks, fish crows and foxes cause significant damage to map turtle nests and eggs, while juveniles and hatchlings are susceptible to snapping turtles, herons and large fish.
- Harvest for the pet trade: Escambia map turtles are in demand in the global pet trade and overcollection potentially impacts the species.
How You Can Help
If you are in the Escambia, Yellow and Choctawhatchee river systems from April-July, be on the lookout for nesting females and keep your distance to minimize disturbance to nesting behavior.