Mississippi Mud Turtle

Scientific Name
Kinosternon subrubrum hippocrepis
Kinosternidae (mud and musk turtles) in the order Testudines (turtles)

A small, dark turtle with yellow stripes along the side of the head and neck, occurring in the swamps of southeastern Missouri. The upper shell is normally dark brown or black. The lower shell is normally yellow with a rich mottling of brown. There are usually two wide and irregular yellow stripes along each side of the head and neck. The tail of the male ends in a clawlike tip. Mud turtles give off an offensive, musky odor when captured.

Similar species: The yellow mud turtle (K. flavescens flavescens) is restricted to the far southwestern corner, the Kansas City region, and a few northeastern counties.


Carapace length: 3–4¾ inches.

Where To Find
Mississippi Mud Turtle Distribution Map

Restricted to the counties of the Mississippi Lowlands of southeastern Missouri. Missouri’s mud turtles are quite separated geographically.

May be found in or near swamps, sloughs, oxbow lakes, and canals. It is often seen in shallow water and avoids flowing rivers. In spring and summer, people often see them crossing roads and highways. It overwinters in mud at the bottom of aquatic habitat, or digs a burrow in soil well away from water. Although the population of this species seems stable in our state, it is of utmost importance to preserve its natural habitats, especially remaining cypress swamps, oxbow lakes, and sloughs.

A wide variety of aquatic animals and some plants, including insects, crayfish, mussels, and various amphibians.

The population appears to be stable in our state, but the few remaining natural habitats of this species — the Bootheel’s cypress swamps, oxbow lakes, and sloughs — must be preserved.

Life Cycle

Apparently breeds from late April to early June. Females lay 1–6 eggs, possibly up to 3 clutches per season. Eggs are usually laid in well-drained, sandy soil. Incubation time averages 105 days. Females reach maturity at 6–8 years of age, when the carapace is about 3¼ inches long. Males become mature when the carapace is 3–3¾ inches long. This species probably enters overwintering retreats in late October.

The wetlands inhabited by these turtles are also home to many species of fish and waterfowl that are pursued by anglers and hunters. Protecting the habitat for these turtles helps fishers and duck hunters, too.

This species is a predator of small aquatic animals, but it is also a prey species: There are many other animals that consume these turtles, especially the eggs and hatchlings.

Media Gallery
Similar Species

Where to See Species

This 747-acre forested conservation area lies in parts of Pemiscot and New Madrid counties.  The tract was donated to the Missouri Department of Conservation in 1986 in memory of John L.
About Reptiles and Amphibians in Missouri
Missouri’s herptiles comprise 43 amphibians and 75 reptiles. Amphibians, including salamanders, toads, and frogs, are vertebrate animals that spend at least part of their life cycle in water. They usually have moist skin, lack scales or claws, and are ectothermal (cold-blooded), so they do not produce their own body heat the way birds and mammals do. Reptiles, including turtles, lizards, and snakes, are also vertebrates, and most are ectothermal, but unlike amphibians, reptiles have dry skin with scales, the ones with legs have claws, and they do not have to live part of their lives in water.