Animal Information

Striped Mud Turtles (Kinosternon baurii) Care and Information

Striped Mud Turtles(Kinosternon baurii) are found from coastal South Carolina and Georgia, south through peninsular Florida and the Keys. Kinosternon is derived from the Greek word kineo which means “move” and sternon which means “chest”. This refers to the hinged plastron.

Striped Mud Turtles(Kinosternon baurii) Female at Crazy Critters

Originally described by Samuel Garman in 1891 as Cinosternon baurii, based on 11 specimens from Key West, Florida. The genus Kinosternon was first used for this turtle by Lonnberg in1894.

Because much of their range has been heavily developed in recent decades, habitat destruction and road kills have threatened this species significantly.

Kinosternon baurii inhabits shallow and ephemeral wetlands, the types most likely to be lost to development activities. This species also utilizes terrestrial habitats. Thus, maintenance of all wetlands and a substantial surrounding buffer is essential to the long-term survival of this turtle.

What Do Three-Striped Turtles Look Like?

The striped mud turtle is characterized by yellow head stripes and three light longitudinal stripes on a dark brown carapace. But individuals most parts of the Carolinas and Georgia lack these stripes, retaining only the light stripe between the eye and nostril. This turtle is only 3 to 4 inches in length and has a double-hinged plastron, similar to the eastern box turtle.

Turtle on left is a StinkPot Turtle and on the right is a Mud Turtle., both are at Crazy Critters.

Juveniles have a carapacial keel that becomes rounded with age and an orange plastron with black smudges along the midline. Head stripes are prominent at hatching, and carapacial stripes are visible in most individuals at this age.

Not to be confused with the common Musk turtle (ternotherus odoratus) that has squarish pectoral scutes on the plastron and skin visible between the plastral scutes. Kinosternon subrubrum lacks the 3 light stripes on the carapace.

Are They Active Turtles?

The activity through winter varies among Kinosternon baurii populations depends on geographic location. In the southern extreme of the range, they are often active all year long, while in the north, they often hibernate, most often times in terrestrial hibernacula. Activity levels decline during hot weather in July and August.

Striped Mud Turtles(Kinosternon baurii) Female at Crazy Critters

Terrestrial activity of 3-Striped Mud Turtles is directly correlated with the water depth of the surrounding bodies of water, and their movements are correlated with rainfall. Mass migrations by this species may be initiated by heavy rainfall.

During instances of the terrestrial activity, Kinosternon baurii construct shallow burrows. The average time spent in such refuge is known to be up to 170 days. Most burrows are constructed in the soil beneath leaf litter, or beneath logs. A given turtle may use as many as four separate refugia in a season, and some individuals may use the same retreat multiple times.

There Has Been More & More Captive Breeding Of Three Striped Mud Turtles…

The number of known appropriate wetlands suggest that this turtle is not endangered or threatened.  Most range states appropriately protect this species. As of January 11, 2017,  this turtle is no longer a protected species in Florida. but is part of the Imperiled Species Management Plan.

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There is a protected population found in the Florida Keys from the western portion of the Seven Mile Bridge to Key West.  This population was protected because it was proposed as a separate taxa. However, subsequent research has concluded that this is not the case and now they are all classified as one family.

The dependence of striped mud turtles on waters of low salinity makes it vulnerable to decline and/or extirpation in the Lower Keys.  Natural freshwater habitats in the Keys tend to be small (up to 50 acres) and vulnerable to degradation.  Their natural habitats depend on a natural subsurface freshwater lens (groundwater supply for islands) although striped mud turtles are also found in manmade ditches and ponds.  Freshwater lenses can be affected by over withdrawal by humans, and saltwater intrusion.

Although the species has survived untold hurricanes, severe saltwater over-wash from very large storms could increase the salt content of fresh and brackish water ponds making them unsuitable habitat for the striped mud turtle. 

If the sea level rises high enough, as has been predicted by some climate change models, striped mud turtle habitats in the Keys will be inundated with sea water and become uninhabitable.

Other threats to the species include increases in egg predation because predator population subsidized by humans and pollution, especially oil spills.’

Feeding Three-Stripe Mud Turtles

Kinosternon baurii is an omnivore, consuming leaves and seeds of plants, algae, snails, insects, and dead fish.

In captivity, it is fine to occasionally give them cut fish, cut beef heart and small earthworms. They happily take any type of protein food, and they enjoy small insects & crustaceans and will learn to eat from your hand.  We recommend Mazuri Brand products such as the aquatic turtle diet.

Breeding Three-Stripe Mud Turtles

These turtles can be housed together. They get along with any similarly sized mud or musk turtles. The sexes can be distinguished by the longer, thicker tails of males. The striped mud turtle is different from most other turtles species in the Southeast in that female’s nest in the fall, rather than the spring or summer.

The Male Is On The Right. He has a longer tail. And the slight curve of the plastron.

Nesting occurs throughout the year, but activity peaks between September and November, although there is another peak in June.  Female striped mud turtles can travel 250 meters (820 feet) from wetlands to nest.

Three-striped mud turtles can lay up to six clutches of one to six eggs per clutch, per year, but the average number of clutches is four.  Incubation temperature determines the sex of the embryo; the majority of the embryos are females when incubation temperatures are greater than 82°F or between 71 and 72.5°F.

Males are predominant when temperatures are 70.7-72.5°F.  At temperatures below 75°F, some embryos will pause their development.  It can take the young over a year to merge from the nest cavity.  

Turtles All Look Alike??…

Three-Striped Mud turtles are often mistaken for Eastern Musk Turtles or Eastern Mud Turtles.

The Florida Mud TurtleKinosternon subrubrum steindachneri, is found throughout the state. It is found primarily near small, shallow bodies of water. Its oval shell is dark and unmarked. Stripes run from its nose over its eyes and down the side of its head. It grows to 5″ in length. It is sometimes seen feeding on manure, which accounts for it being referred to as the “Cow Dung Cooter”.

Florida Mud Turtle, Kinosternon subrubrum steindachneri Male at Crazy Critters

The Eastern Mud TurtleKinosternon subrubrum subrubrum, is found across the panhandle and northern Florida. It is similar in appearance to the Florida Mud Turtle.

The Loggerhead Musk TurtleSternotherus minor minor, is found in freshwater springs and spring runs in the panhandle and northern peninsula. It has a dark peaked shell and has black spots on its head. Although only 4.5″ long, it has quite a bite.

The Stripe-neck Musk TurtleSternotherus minor peltifer, is found in the western panhandle. It is similar to the Loggerhead Musk Turtle but has a flatter shell.

The Common Musk Turtle aka The Stinkpot Turtle,Sternotherus odoratus is a species of small turtle native to southeastern Canada and much of the Eastern United States. It is also known as the common musk turtle, eastern musk turtle, or stinkpot due to its ability to release a foul musky odor from scent glands on the edge of its shell, possibly to deter predation.

We have a group of Three-Stripe Turtles here at Crazy Critters. These animals have found their way to us and have become one of our conservation groups. Offspring will be used strictly for education with the largest percentages being released to the wild.

Many people catch turtles here in Florida. We can argue if it is right or wrong. What we do know is that if you captive raise an animal for numbers of years. Then release that animal in the wild. Contamination from unknown bacteria and other pathogens harm the turtle or the environment because of the turtle.

Crazy Critters was established to provide non-releasable animals with a naturalistic forever home.

With that said, FWC protects the following species.
  • Alligator snapping turtles (Macrochelys temminckii)
  • Barbour’s map turtles (Graptemys barbouri)
  • Suwannee cooters (Pseudemys suwanniensis)

Also prohibited is taking species that look similar to the imperiled species, which include common snapping turtles and cooters.

  • Cooters (Pseudemys sp.)
  • Escambia Map Turtle (Graptemys ernsti)
  • Snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina)

For all other freshwater turtles, take is limited to one turtle per person per day (midnight to midnight) from the wild for non-commercial use. The transport of more than one turtle per day is prohibited unless the transporter has a license for sale or exhibition of wildlife, aquaculture certification from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, or documentation that their turtles were legally obtained (proof of purchase).

Freshwater turtles can only be taken by hand, dip net, minnow seine or baited hook. Most freshwater turtles may be taken year-round. Taking turtles with bucket traps, snares, or shooting with firearms is prohibited. Softshell turtles may not be taken from the wild from May 1 to July 31. In addition, collecting of freshwater turtle eggs is prohibited.

Possession limits for the following turtle species and their eggs are as follows:

  • Loggerhead musk turtles – two
  • Box turtles – two
  • Escambia map turtles – two
  • Diamondback terrapins – two

Let us know your ideas and comments below!

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