Western Pond Turtle

A holdover from the age of the dinosaurs, Western pond turtles are California's only native freshwater turtle. They seek out wetlands but also require access to dry upland areas where they can winter without fear of being washed away by floods and where the females can lay their eggs. In Santa Cruz County these turtles are found in the wetlands near the mouth of Waddell Creek, around Loch Lomond and, since 2009, at the pond at Quail Hollow Ranch. They're a species of "special concern" in California.

In 2012 filmmaker Jordan Plotsky teamed up with the City of Santa Cruz to create a 9-minute documentary about this shy (or "cryptic") reptile, which you may glimpse basking on a log before it slips into the safety of the water. Check it out:


Field Notes

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WPT can also be found at the lagoon wetlands near the mouths of Laguna Creek, Wilder Creek, and (I believe) Scott Creek, as well as other lagoons north along the Santa Cruz-San Mateo coast. They have somewhat similar habitat requirements to California red-legged frog and are able to tolerate a little salinity. Thanks for highlighting this nifty species!