Northern Red-bellied Cooter

Species Name: Pseudemys rubriventris

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Species Distribution in Massachusetts


Federal Rank: Endangered

Massachusetts State Rank: Endangered

Habitat Description

In Massachusetts, the Northern Red-bellied Cooter is isolated to pools and ponds in Plymouth County. It inhabits freshwater ponds where there is abundant aquatic vegetation and sandy shores to nest in. At one point, the Northern Red-bellied Cooter lived as a continuous population throughout coastal Massachusetts into North Carolina.

Threats to Survival

Northern Red-bellied Cooter nesting habitat is being lost due to human encroachment and suppression of burning. Residential expansion removes nesting areas, introduces predators, increases the populations of natural predators, pollutes waters, and increases road mortality. Northern Red-bellied Cooters nest in pitch pine or scrub oak barrens where sunlight is able to reach and incubate the eggs, but suppression of burning allows taller trees to grow that block out sunlight.

Actions Recommended to Ensure Survival

Education, research, and management are necessary for the ensured survival of the Northern Red-bellied Cooter. Ponds that are suitable for Red-bellied Cooter habitat should be monitored and improved by removing predators and utilizing prescribed fires to create nesting sites. Increased education and law enforcement is instrumental to protecting the Northern Red-bellied Cooter, and continued research can help ensure that this rare species is restored.