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Wading through Wetlands for Western Chicken Turtles

Jena Donnell
Thursday, June 21, 2018

An unusual turtle with an unusual name, the western chicken turtle can be found in southeastern Oklahoma where it spends most of its time sunning near small wetlands. To learn more about where these turtles live, the Wildlife Department teamed up with researchers from Missouri State University for a four-year search in a three-county area of the Muddy Boggy and Clear Boggy creek drainages. 

Surveyors found 86 of the turtles in just eight of the 27 surveyed wetlands. 

What Chicken Turtles Need to Thrive
  • Networks of vegetated, shallow wetlands are critical for this species of greatest conservation need. Naturally-formed beaver ponds appear to provide suitable habitat for these turtle. In fact, 92 percent of the western chicken turtles found in this study were located in three beaver-created wetlands. 
  • Wooded uplands are of equal importance to the conservation of western chicken turtles. These wooded areas serve as safe passageways between individual wetlands and can provide suitable summer habitat when the turtles are less active. 
  • Artificial wetlands, including abandoned hatchery ponds and wetlands enrolled in the Wetland Reserve Program may become more attractive habitat to western chicken turtles if water levels are managed to fit the seasonal activity patterns of the turtle. 
Learning About More than Just Chicken Turtles

In addition to western chicken turtles, seven species of greatest conservation need, including the western mudsnake, Mississippi map turtle and razorback musk turtle, were found during the surveys.