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Western Pond Turtle

Actinemys ssp.


Emydidae, the box and basking turtle family

Conservation Status:

The Actinemys marmorata – Vulnerable, IUCN

AZA SAFE listed animal

It is listed as Endangered in Washington State, protected in Oregon and a Species of Special Concern in California


Extends from Baja California Norte, north through the Pacific States of the USA, and barely into British Columbia, Canada.


Found in ponds, lakes, streams, large rivers, slow-moving sloughs, and quiet waters.


Western pond turtles locate food by sight or by smell, and can only swallow food underwater.

A medium-sized turtle, with the largest of about 8”, occurring in the northern part of the range.  Carapace (upper shell) is dark brown or olive above without dark streaking. Plastron (lower shell) is cream to yellowish, sometimes with dark blotches in the centers of the scutes. The limbs and head are olive, yellow, orange or brown, often with darker flecks or spots.  This turtle is diurnal and aquatic. It is often seen basking above the water, but will quickly slide into the water when it feels threatened.

Traditionally considered a single species, a recent genetic analysis has resulted in a split into Northwestern (A.marmorata) and Southwestern (A.pallida) pond turtle, with the geographic division occurring in central California. All populations of the Western Pond Turtle north of the Francisco Bay area plus populations from the Great Central Valley north  will be Actinemys marmorata. The Actinemys pallida is restricted to those populations inhabiting the central coast range south of the San Francisco Bay area to the species’ southern range boundary, including the Mojave River.

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