Species #24: Loggerhead musk turtle (Sternotherus m. minor)
Location: Rainbow River (Marion County, Florida)
Date: 13 May 2017
Post by George L. Heinrich
The weather forecast was poor, but my students and I decided to paddle on Rainbow River nevertheless. Rainbow is my favorite Florida waterway and home to nine species of turtles. For the past seven months, I have taught Turtle Science, a course for adults offered through Boyd Hill Nature Preserve (St. Petersburg, Florida), and this was the final day. Less than an hour after launching our kayaks and canoes the weather started deteriorating, but we continued upriver. Some of the students and I snorkeled at a few points along the way because I really needed to see a loggerhead musk turtle (Sternotherus m. minor) for The Big Turtle Year and it’s a common species on the Rainbow. We see dozens of these kinosternid turtles on an average day, but we saw minimal turtle activity that day. So, I was excited when I found a very large-headed, male loggerhead musk turtle hiding under a log with just a small section of exposed carapace. That single turtle moved our species count to 24. Only two more turtles were observed that day, another loggerhead musk turtle in a side creek and an unidentified cooter (Pseudemys sp.) swimming underwater. I look forward to the next visit being on a sunny day.