Western Pond Turtle: Ultimate Guide

Male vs Female

There are noticeable differences in the appearance of male and female Western Pond Turtles. Typically, the males have bigger heads and a sharper, more pointed snout.

Aside from this, the males also have wider necks and thicker tails. As for markings, those found on the body of a female are generally darker than the markings of a male.

Another difference can be identified in the shape of the shells. Males tend to have flatter shells, whereas the shell of a female is higher and more dome-shaped. 

These differences in appearance can be difficult to identify in juvenile Western Pond Turtles. However, they will become more prominent as they reach sexual maturity.


The Western Pond Turtle, commonly referred to as the Pacific Pond Turtle, is a small to medium-sized freshwater species that belongs to the Emydidae family. It is regularly found along the Western Coast of the United States and Mexico. 

The carapace is a term used to describe a turtle’s tough upper shell. In adult turtles, this tends to be between 8 to 18cm long. The coloration of the carapace is typically either brown or black. 

Whilst there are differences in the appearance of male and female Western Pond Turtles, generally, they tend to have a yellow-colored underside with a few black markings. Most tend to have a yellow tail, head, and legs with dark markings. Some turtles may also have small black flecks on their head.

When compared to other turtle species, some would suggest that the Western Pond Turtle is quite plain. It is also worth noting that the visibility of a turtle’s markings can also vary. 

As a Pet

Although Western Pond Turtles are not yet extinct, their natural habitat faces threats from urbanization and agriculture. Because of this, they aren’t recommended as pets. Instead, they will benefit from being left in the wild because here they will have more opportunities for their population to grow and thrive. 

In many states, it is illegal to remove Western Pond Turtles from their wild and wet living habitat for pet trade purposes.

It is worth noting that turtles in general, have long lifespans and because of this, you must be willing to provide them with the necessary care over a prolonged period. Aso, they aren’t good pets for children, particularly those of a young age due to their specific care requirements. 


You should expect your Western Pond Turtle to live for between 50 and 70 years. Most will reach reproductive maturity at around 10 years of age. In the wild, this species tends to grow fairly slowly. 


As the seasons change, a Western Pond Turtle will endure a physical adaptation. As drought approaches and the conditions become drier they become less active but require a lot more oxygen. They tend to become dormant in the mud.

The mud is also where they will gather their oxygen and the provision of this oxygen is key to their survival. 

Breeding Season

These turtles typically mate between late April and early May, however, this isn’t to say that they aren’t going to mate during other months throughout the year. At this time, the females will move from the water to a drier location upland. They will then begin to nest before laying their eggs. 

A Western Pond Turtles gestation period can last anywhere from 80 to 100 days.


A sexually mature female can lay anything from 1 to 13 eggs at any one time, however, the average number is around 6. Normally, female turtles will lay at least one clutch a year but there are many that will lay 2 a year. 

Growth Rate

This species of turtle grows fairly slow. In fact, females don’t reach maturity until they are between 10 to 15 years old. For males, this process does occur much quicker with most maturing by the age of 12.

When they first hatch, these turtles are very small which means that they are more vulnerable in regards to their prey. 

Compared to other species, the Western Pond Turtle is medium-sized even when fully grown. The length of an adult turtle doesn’t tend to exceed 9 or 10 inches. 

Life Cycle

For the most part, Western Pond Turtles are solitary creatures that spend the majority of their time in streams, ponds, or lakes. There are certain months where the ponds start to dry up, so you will find that these turtles do spend a significant amount of time out of the water. 

As they approach the mating season, the females will be in search of a habitat that has plenty of vegetation where they can spend their time basking. Once the females have reached 10 years or older, they start to sexually mature and will begin reproducing.

Depending on the temperature their eggs will naturally incubate beneath the ground and will only take around 2 to 4 hours to hatch when they are ready.


There are believed to be approximately 10,000 to 1,000,000 adult Western Pond Turtles in the world, however, this is a decrease in the number that has existed in previous years. According to recent studies, It is thought that the majority can be found within the Trinity River Watershed. 


The diet of a Western Pond Turtle is pretty varied. As an omnivorous species, they will feed on snails, tadpoles, insects, fish, worms, flies, and leeches. They can also feed on aquatic plants such as tule, lily pods, and filamentous algae, however, this isn’t as common.


As we have mentioned, when they hatch Western Pond Turtles tend to be very small and because of this, they are exposed to more threats from predators.

Their hard shell will develop as they age which provides them with a protective layer. They are mainly threatened by otters, raccoons, and coyotes. When they are small, they may be preyed upon by larger species of fish, bullfrogs, and weasels.

Roaming Range

Many aquatic pond turtles will often wander around 500 yards away from the water. Once they have arrived on dry land, they will then deposit their offspring. There is also evidence of this species roaming as far as 1,500 feet away from its aquatic habitat. The range of this species goes from Washington, through Western Oregon and California. 


Some Western Pond Turtles will suffer from shell disease. This disease can be identified by defective scutes and deep lesions. In severe cases, this disease will expose the bones that lay beneath the shell. According to some studies, a recently discovered fungus is believed to be a cause of the disease in this species.

Eye Color

Like most other turtle species, the Western Pond Turtle has dark eyes that are either a yellow or brown color. They then have black pupils.


Depending on the area in which they inhabit, many Western Pond Turtles will enter a state of brumation. Similar to hibernation, a turtle that is brumating will appear much more sluggish and inactive. With this species, you will typically find that they burrow beneath the mud until the temperatures begin to warm up. 

Can they swim?

Western Pond Turtles are confident swimmers but despite this, they will spend a significant amount of time on dry land. Their webbed feet make it easier for them to swim underneath the water. 


As mentioned previously, it is recommended that Western Pond Turtles remain in the wild due to the threats faced by the species. However, if they are for whatever reason kept as pets you must provide a large, spacious enclosure that is equipped with a pond.

Make sure that they have plenty of vegetation and a muddy area where they can burrow and dig. You must also make sure that you are feeding them a maximum of 4 times a week. Furthermore, it is important to remember to freshen up the water every week.


The cost of a turtle is going to be determined by its age. You will find some that cost more than $100 and others that are significantly less. It is also likely that you will notice a difference in the price depending on where you get it from.

Aside from the cost of the turtle itself, you must also account for the added cost of the equipment and supplies.

Fun Facts

If a Western Pond Turtle senses danger it will retract its legs and head into its shell to protect itself.

Despite being considered a solitary species, Western Pond turtles will often live in groups, either amongst painted turtles or their own species. 

When a western pond turtle feels threatened it will produce a high-pitched noise that sounds very much like a cry. 

As a species, the Western Pond Turtle is known to be very shy. 

Just like other reptiles, these turtles are ectothermic. This essentially means that the temperature of their bodies is the same temperature as their environment. They also spend a lot of their time basking in the sunshine on dry land.