Here in Cook County, we have two very unique species of turtle – the eastern musk turtle and the spiny softshell turtle. On this week’s blog post, Kami is going to tell you all about these guys! She focuses on these particular species and trying to add to the little that is known about them!

The eastern musk turtle is a very small species of turtle that loves to hang around bathymetric slopes, which are river or marsh “drop-offs” close to shore. They eat all sorts of plants, mollusks, and insects but their favorite is earthworms. They get their name, as well as the nickname “stinkpot”, from the musky odor that they spray when they feel threatened. While most turtles spend their time swimming from one side of the pond to the other, musk turtles prefer to take the scenic route and walk on the bottom instead!

Kami and Dr. Kaitlin cheesing with a musk turtle

The spiny softshell turtle is quite the character. They look like pancakes and their neck is as long as half a snakes body! They are prime candidates for the “largest turtle in North America” award. Their carapace has a camo-like appearance that can fool anybody staring at the bottom of the river. They prefer faster-flowing rivers with silty bottoms where they burrow and wait for dinner to swim by.

Spiny softshell turtle