Wood Turtle Diet
The North American Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) is an omnivore. An omnivore is simply an organism that consumes both
plant and animal matter. In the case of the Wood Turtle, plant matter consumed in the wild might include strawberries (when in
season); whereas, animal matter would typically include slugs, among other things.
As with many freshwater turtles, Wood Turtles are suspected to be "facultative omnivores". This means that, if at all possible, they
prefer animal matter over most plants, any day. A hatchling Wood Turtle that eats an earthworm or slug might be quite content for
days. An adult Wood Turtle eating a similar-sized earthworm, however, won't be full because it's the equivalent of an adult human
eating, say, one french fry (it just isn't enough). If, on any given day, an adult Wood Turtle can't find enough earthworms, well then,
plants are abundant and they don't run away! Thus, many turtles become more vegetarian as they get older, but more so out of
necessity than choice...
Pet Wood Turtles will consume the following items:
- Honeydew melon
- Carrots (boiled)
- Romaine Lettuce
- Spinach - feed sparingly
- Mixed vegetables (purchased frozen)
- High-quality kitten chow (staple food)
- Canned dog food
- Adult crickets (live)
- Hard-boiled eggs (with crushed shell)
- Dead mice (purchased frozen)
- Chicken heart and liver
- Minnows (live - from a bait shop)
Last updated: February 7th, 2010
In the wild, Wood Turtles are known to consume a wide variety of plants and animals.
What kinds of animals do Wood Turtles eat? Well,
as mentioned above, earthworms are a favorite. Slugs are also
relished and many a Wood Turtle researcher has come upon one with yellow
'slug juices' all over its jaws. Leeches and snails are also
consumed, as are various insects and their larvae, tadpoles, frogs,
and newborn mice. Wood Turtles are also not above scavenging: stomach
contents have included sucker, carp, bluegill, trout, and bird remains.
The eggs and/or young of certain birds (that nest on or near the
ground) may also be consumed. Stomach contents have also revealed
snails, crayfish, millipedes, beetles, moths, flies, ants and various
insects and bugs.
An even wider variety of 'plant' matter is consumed. Wood Turtles will eat certain grasses and algae. Interestingly, Wood Turtles seem to relish the leaves of alder, willow, and birch trees. There is even a report of cranberry leaves. They also like flowering plants like wild violets, cinquefoil, and dandelions. Other plants include: plantain, mullein, greenbrier, sorrel, and the toxic milkweed plant.
Their favorite wild plant food is probably berries. Wood Turtles are known to leave favorite areas and move to patches of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries. They enjoy strawberry leaves as well. One Wood Turtle was even observed eating the fallen fruits of pokeweed, a plant whose toxin can kill livestock!
Stomach contents have also revealed apple seeds, fox grapes, nightshade berries, turtle-head seeds, partride berries, and elderberries.
Wood Turtles will also eat corn right off the cob! How do they get at the corn? Seems they profit from the left-overs pulled down by both beavers and black bears. This was confirmed by turtle fecal analysis.
Lastly, Wood Turtles will consume certain species of bryophytes (e.g., mosses) and fungi (i.e., mushrooms). Mushrooms can constitute up to 37% of an adult Wood Turtle's total diet! At least six species are known to be consumed.