An adult nesting River Cooter from Wyandotte County. © Jessica Lawrenz.
An adult River Cooter from Greenwood County, KS. Image © Greg Seivert.
Image © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.
A hatchling River Cooter from Wyandotte County. © Jessica Lawrenz.
A River Cooter (left front) and three Pond Sliders (right and in the back) basking on a log in Shoal Creek, Cherokee County. © Jenn Rader.
An adult River Cooter from Greenwood County, KS. Image © Greg Seivert.
REPTILIA (Reptiles) TESTUDINES (Turtles) EMYDIDAE (Box and Basking Turtles)

River Cooter
Pseudemys concinna (LeConte 1830)
sū-dĕm-ēz — kŏn-sĭn-ŭh


Conservation Status:

State: None

Federal: None
NatureServe State: S4 - Apparently Secure
NatureServe National: N5 - Secure
NatureServe Global: G5 - Secure
CITES: None
Diagnosis:
The semiaquatic River Cooter is characterized by a short tail, a smooth, rigid upper and lower shell, an upper shell with a roughly jagged rear edge, and a dark head with numerous yellow stripes. The upper shell is dark gray or black with a network of yellow lines. The lower shell is light yellow or tan-yellow, generally with no markings except in very young turtles. The head, limbs, and tail are dark gray or black with narrow yellow lines. Adult males are smaller than females and have long claws on the front limbs.
Adults are normally 190-305 mm (7½-12 inches) in carapace length. The largest specimen from Kansas is a female (KU 223471) from Labette County with a carapace length of 360 mm (14¼ inches) collected by Alan Hynek on 24 April 1996. The maximum carapace length throughout the range is 374.7 mm (14¾ inches) (Powell et al., 2016).

Distribution:
The River Cooter inhabits rivers, streams, watershed lakes, ponds, and lagoons in southeastern Kansas. It is known from the Marais des Cygnes, Neosho/Spring, Verdigris/Fall, Walnut, and lower Arkansas drainages. The record mapped in Collins (1994) from Crawford County is unknown and not mapped. A population (most likely introduced) has become established and is reproducing, at Wyandotte County Lake (Missouri River drainage).
(,   Museum Voucher) (,   Observation) (,   Literature Record) (,   iNat Record), (  Fossil)
Open icons are questionable records; Click on a marker to view details.
Full range depicted by light shaded red area. Export Google Earth (.kml)
  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 374
    Records 
  • 80
    Museum Vouchers 
  • 294
    Other Observations 
Some county occurrences indicated below may be too imprecise to map above.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences):
Allen (24); Bourbon (77); Butler (1); Chase (3); Chautauqua (8); Cherokee (135); Coffey (3); Cowley (7); Crawford (9); Douglas (4); Elk (13); Franklin (3); Greenwood (11); Johnson (7); Labette (14); Linn (1); Lyon (9); Miami (7); Montgomery (3); Neosho (13); Osage (4); Sedgwick (3); Unknown (1); Wilson (4); Woodson (6); Wyandotte (4);

Fossil History:
Pleistocene fossils are known from localities in Meade, Ellsworth, and Seward counties. Each of these records are outside of the currently known distribution of this species.
Fossils from the Kanopolis Local Fauna of Ellsworth County (Pleistocene: Rancholabrean I) (Preston 1979, Holman 1984; Holman 1995) are assignable to this taxon.
Fossils from the Butler Spring Local Fauna of Meade County (Pleistocene: Illinoian) (Tihen 1962; Preston 1979; Holman 1995) are assignable to this taxon.

Natural History:
This turtle inhabits large streams, rivers, and lakes. It prefers still or slow-moving water with a soft bottom, abundant vegetation, and plenty of logs and brush on which to bask in the sun. The River Cooter is active during the day from March to September. It apparently forages for food in the morning and evening, spending at least some of the midday hidden under the water. At night, it generally sleeps beneath the water on the soft bottom or occasionally may search for food. This turtle is more land-roving than other aquatic turtles, using the sun as a compass for orientation. It is killed frequently while crossing highways. Clarke (1958) reported a female of this species found crossing a road near a lake in Crawford County and speculated that the turtle was on land to lay eggs.
Nothing is known of courtship behavior for this species in Kansas. Nesting occurs in June, each female emerging from the water to find an area of soft earth in which to lay 12- 29 elongate white eggs. Depending on soil temperature, the eggs hatch in 80- 150 days. The young may stay in the nest during the winter and emerge the following spring.
Adult River Cooters feed primarily on aquatic vegetation. The young will eat meat, but their diet changes to plants as they grow older.
Predators of this species are hogs, raccoons, skunks, and opossums, which eat the eggs; and large birds, fishes, snakes, other turtles, and mammals, which eat the young. People are the chief predators of adults.

Occurrence Activity:
Number of Unique Obervations (=days): 87; Range: 22 Feb to 13 Dec
Remarks:
First reported from Kansas by Burt and Hoyle (1934) based a young specimen (listed as Pseudemys texana) taken by seine at Sandy Creek, a branch of the Verdigris River, at a point 5.5 miles northeast of Coyville, in southern Woodson County, Kansas by Charles E. Burt, on 27 June 1931. The oldest existing specimen from Kansas is KU 3744, collected at Neosho Falls, Woodson County, on 26 July 1926.
Based on a captive specimen, Snider and Bowler (1992) reported a maximum longevity for this turtle of nineteen years and five months.

Bibliography:
1830 LeConte, John E. Description of the species of North American tortoises. Annals of the Lyceum of Natural History of New York 3():91-131
1880 Cragin, Francis W. A preliminary catalogue of Kansas reptiles and batrachians Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 7():112-123
Also listed the Scarlet Snake (Cemophora coccinea) [=Ophibolus doliatus var. coccineus] and Red Salamander (Pseudotriton ruber) [=Spelerpes ruber] from Kansas.
1911 Hurter, Julius. Herpetology of Missouri. Transactions of the Academy of Science St. Louis 20(5):59-274
1933 Burt, Charles E. Some distributional and ecological records of Kansas reptiles. Transactions of the Academy of Science St. Louis 26():186-208
1934 Burt, Charles E. and W. L. Hoyle. Additional records of the reptiles of the central prairie region of the United States. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():193-216
1936 Brumwell, Malcolm J. Distributional records of the reptilia and amphibians of Kansas. Privately printed, . 22pp.
County dot maps of the Kansas herpetofauna. This work has been attributed to have been written around 1933, but that may be in error. 
Hypsiglena jani was not known from Kansas until Claude W. Hibbard collected three specimens on the Stevenson Ranch in north-central Clark County (above Clark State Lake) during June 1936 (Hibbard, 1937). Brumwell plotted this locality, which leads me to believe that the 1936 would have been the earliest date this manuscript could have been written.
1938 Stejneger, Leonhard. Restitution of the name Ptychemys hoyi Agassiz for a western river tortoise. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 51(40):173-176
1950 Smith, Hobart M. Handbook of Amphibians and Reptiles of Kansas. University of Kansas, Museum of Natural History, Miscellaneous Publication (2):336
The first modern herpetology of Kansas. Includes locality dot maps within individual species accounts. Reports 96 species from Kansas (table and text say 97 on p. 10) and 13 "probable but unverified" species and subspecies.
1953 Schmidt, Karl P. A Check List of North American Amphibians and Reptiles. 6th Edition. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois. 280pp.
Schmidt's first edition of his standardized checklist to North American amphibians and reptiles. Includes several specific references to Kansas in the range descriptions.
1956 Smith, Hobart M. Handbook of Amphibians and Reptiles of Kansas. Second edition. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Miscellaneous Publication (9):1-356
Hobart M. Smith's updated second edition of his first (1950) modern herpetology of Kansas. Includes locality dot maps within individual species accounts. Reports 96 species from Kansas (table says 97 on p. 10; text says 98 on p. 10) and 11 "probable but unverified" species and subspecies. The second edition has updated taxonomy, added Plestiodon laticeps, and removed Eurycea tynerensis.
1956 Clarke, Robert F. Turtles in Kansas. Kansas School Naturalist 2(4):1-15
1956 Clarke, Robert F. Identification of Kansas turtles. Kansas School Naturalist 2(4):1-3
1967 Gier, Herschel T. Vertebrates of the Flint Hills. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 70(1):51-59
1974 Collins, Joseph T. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Public Education Series (1):283 pp
Joseph T. Collins first Kansas herpetology. <Need to get species total and principal differences with previous 'version' (= Smith 1956)>
1975 Lardie, Richard L. Three new herpetological records for Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (5):6
1976 Rundquist, Eric M. Field checklist (of) amphibians and reptiles of Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society, Lawrence. pp.
1976 Caldwell, Janalee P. and Gregory. Glass. Vertebrates of the Woodson County State Fishing Lake and Game Management Area. Pages 62-76 in Preliminary inventory of the biota of Woodson County State Fishing Lake and Game Management Area. Report No. 5. State Biological Survey of Kansas, Lawrence. pp.
1976 Grow, David. The KHS goes to Chetopa. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (13):2-3
Spring field trip (22 May 1976) along the Neosho River.
1976 Miller, Larry L. KHS visits Elk County. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (15):1-2
1978 Hibbard, Claude W.; Richard J. Zakrzewski, Ralph E. Eshelman, Gordon Edmund, Clayton D. Griggs, and Caroline Griggs. Mammals from the Kanopolis Local Fauna, Pleistocene (Yarmouth) of Ellsworth County, Kansas. Contributions from the Museum of Paleontology, The University of Michigan 25(2):11-44
1979 Martin, Larry D. Survey of fossil vertebrates from east-central Kansas: Kansas River bank stabilization study. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City District. 55pp.
1982 Collins, Joseph T. Report to the Kansas Fish and Game Commission on the status of three amphibians in southeastern Kansas. Kansas Fish and Game Commission, Pratt. 57pp.
1982 Collins, Joseph T. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas. 2nd edition. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Public Education Series (8):
Joseph T. Collins second Kansas herpetology. <Need to get species total and principal differences with previous 'version' (= Collins 1974)>
1983 Collins, Joseph T. New records of fishes, amphibians, and reptiles in Kansas for 1982 . Technical Publication of the State Biological Survey of Kansas 13():9-21
1984 Brown, Kenneth L. Pomona: A plains village variant in eastern Kansas and western Missouri. Dissertation. University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. 519pp.
1984 Secor, Stephen M. and Charles C. Carpenter. Distribution maps of Oklahoma reptiles. Oklahoma Herpetological Society Special Publication (3):1-57
1984 Collins, Joseph T. New records of fishes, amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 1984. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (58):14-20
1986 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 1985. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (63):4
1986 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 1986. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (66):9-16
1990 Collins, Joseph T. Maximum size records for Kansas amphibians and reptiles. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (81):13-17
1991 Conant, Roger and Joseph T. Collins. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. 3rd ed. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. pp.
1991 Voorhees, William, J. Schnell, and David Edds. Bait preferences of semiaquatic turtles in southeast Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (85):14-13
1992 Edds, David R. Population status and incidence of anatomical abnormalities in semiaquatic turtles of the Walnut and lower Arkansas river basins. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt. 58pp.
1993 Collins, Joseph T. and Suzanne L. Collins. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas. Third Edition. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Lawrence. 397pp.
Joseph T. Collins third Kansas herpetology. <Need to get species total and principal differences with previous 'version' (= Collins 1982)>
1994 Seidel, Michael E. Morphometric analysis and taxonomy of cooter and redbelly turtles in the North American genus Pseudemys (Emydidae). Chelonian Conservation and Biology 1():117-130
1995 Holman, J. Alan. Pleistocene Amphibians and Reptiles. Oxford University Press, New York. 243pp.
1995 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 1994. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (100):24-47
1996 Rundquist, Eric M. Results of the eighth annual KHS herp counts Held 1 April-31 May 1996. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (104):6-17
1996 Seidel, Michael E. and Carl H. Ernst. Pseudemys. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (625):1-7
1996 Seidel, Michael E. and Michael J. Dreslik. Pseudemys concinna. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (626):1-12
1996 Rakestraw, J. Spring herp counts: A Kansas tradition. Reptile & Amphibian Magazine (March-April):75-80
1997 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 1996. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (107):14-16
1998 Conant, Roger and Joseph T. Collins. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. 3rd ed, expanded. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. pp.
1998 Powell, Robert, Joseph T Collins, and Errol D Hooper Jr. A Key to Amphibians & Reptiles of the Continental United States and Canada. Univ Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. 131pp.
1998 Gamble, Jerre. Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hartford, Kansas. 91pp.
1998 Buskirk, James R. Book review: A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Third Edition, Expanded. Bulletin of the Chicago Herpetological Society 33(10):215-216
Non sequitur comment on the omittance of Pseudemys concinna in the 1981 Caldwell and Collins book, Turtles in Kansas.
1999 Rundquist, Eric M. Kansas Herpetological Society herp counts: A 10 year summary and evaluation. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (115):42962
2001 Taggart, Travis W. The KHS 2001 spring field trip: A rainy rendezvous. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (124):12-14
2001 Rundquist, Eric M. Results of the thirteenth annual KHS herp counts for 2001, held 1 April-30 June. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (125):13-16
2001 Iverson, John B. Reproduction of the River Cooter, Pseudemys concinna, in Arkansas and across its range. Southwestern Naturalist 46():364-370
2002 Kingsbury, Bruce and Joanna Gibson. Habitat Management Guidelines for Amphibians and Reptiles of the Midwest. Publication of Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, Address not given. 152pp.
2002 Riedle, J. Daren and A. Hynek. Amphibian and reptile inventory of the Kansas Army Ammunition Plant, Labette County, Kansas. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (2):18-20
2003 Fogell, Daniel D. A herpetofaunal inventory of Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Homestead National Monument of America, and Pipestone National Monument within the Heartland Inventory and Monitoring Network. National Park Service, Washington, D.C.. 59pp.
This is the version the author submitted to the NPS. Their final publication was modified.
2003 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the 2003 KHS spring field trip to Wilson County. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (6):2-5
2006 Taggart, Travis W. Distribution and status of Kansas herpetofauna in need of information. State Wildlife Grant T7. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt. vii + 106pp.
2009 Murrow, Daniel G. KHS 2009 spring field trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (29):42769
2010 Collins, Joseph T., Suzanne L. Collins, and Travis W. Taggart. Amphibians, Reptiles, and Turtles of Kansas Eagle Mountain Publishing., Provo, Utah. 400pp.
Joseph T. Collins fourth Kansas herpetology. <Need to get species total and principal differences with previous 'version' (= Collins 1993)>
2010 Murrow, Daniel G. Kansas Herpetological Society spring field trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (33):2-3
2011 Taggart, Travis W. Kansas Herpetological Society 2011 spring field trip to beheld in Chautauqua County. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (37):5-7
2011 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS Spring Field Trip to Chautauqua County. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (38):2-4
2011 House, William J., Ian M. Nall, and R. Brent Thomas Selected aspects of semi-aquatic turtle assemblages in east-central Kansas ponds. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 114(3-4):239-244
2012 Rohweder, Megan R. Spatial conservation prioritization of Kansas for terrestrial vertebrates. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 151pp.
2012 Powell, Robert, Joseph T Collins, and Errol D Hooper Jr. Key to the Herpetofauna of the Continental United States and Canada: Second Edition, Revised and Updated. Univ Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. 152pp.
2013 Taggart, Travis W. KHS 2012 Spring Field Trip to Bourbon County State Lake. Collinsorum 2(3/4):3
2013 Taggart, Travis W. KHS 2013 Spring Field Trip to Schermerhorn Park, Cherokee County. Collinsorum 2(3/4):4
2013 Palis, John G. Serendipitous sightings of Pseudemys in southern Illinois. Bulletin of the Chicago Herpetological Society 48(4):49-51
2014 Taggart, Travis W. Recent scientific and standard English name changes effecting the Kansas herpetofauna. Collinsorum 3(2-4):9-10
2015 Rhodin, Anders G. J., Scott Thomson, Georgios L. Georgalis, Hans-Volker Karl, Igo G. Danilov, Akio Takahashi, Marcelo S. de la fuente, Jason R. Bourque, Massimo Delfino, Roger Bour, John B. Iverson, H. Bradley Shaffer, and Peter Paul van Dijk. Turtles and tortoises of the world during the rise and global spread of humanity: First checklist and review of extinct pleistocene and holocene chelonians. Chelonian Research Monographs (5):66
References Hesperotestudo equicomes (Kansas Tortoise of late Pleistocene), Hesperotestudo campester (Plains Giant Tortoise of late Pliocene to early Pleistocene), Hesperotestudo turgida (Plains Tortoise of early Pleistocene), Pseudemys hibbardi (Hibbard's Cooter of late Pleistocene), Trachemys idahoensis (Idaho Slider of late Pliocene to early Pleistocene), Emydoidea blandingii (Blanding's Turtle of Pleistocene), Terrapene mexicana (Mexican Box Turtle of late Pleistocene), Terrapene ornata (Ornate Box Turtle of late Pleistocene) from Kansas.
2016 Powell, Robert, Roger Conant, and Joseph T. Collins. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston. 494pp.
2016 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS Summer field trip to Caney River, Chautauqua County, Kansas. Collinsorum 5(2-3):4-5
2017 Taggart, Travis W. and J. Daren Riedle. A Pocket Guide to Kansas Amphibians, Turtles and Lizards. Great Plains Nature Center, Wichita, Kansas. 69pp.
2017 Crother, Brian I. (editor) Scientific and Standard English Names of Amphibians and Reptiles of North America North of Mexico, with Comments Regarding Confidence in Our Understanding. Eighth edition. Herpetological Circulars (43):102
2019 Powell, Robert, Joseph T Collins, and Errol D Hooper Jr. Key to the Herpetofauna of the Continental United States and Canada. Third Edition. Univ Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. 192pp.
2019 Hollender, Ethan C. Freshwater turtle community composition in mined land strip pit lakes and the effects of learned trap avoidance on capture rates of Sternotherus odoratus and Trachemys scripta. Thesis. Missouri State University, Springfield. 61pp.
2020 Mahr, Michael S. Distributions and statuses of map turtles (Graptemys sp.) in Kansas. Thesis. Emporia State University, Emporia, Kansas.. 131pp.
2020 Daniel, Richard E. and Brian S. Edmond. Atlas of Missouri Amphibians and Reptiles for 2019. Privately printed, Columbia, Missouri. 86pp.
2020 Riedle, J. Daren. Revisiting Kansas Herpetological Society field trip and Herp Count data: Distributional patterns and trend data of Kansas amphibians and reptiles. Collinsorum 9(1):7-16
2021 Rhodin, Anders G. J., John B. Iverson, Roger Bour, Uwe Fritz, Arthur Georges, H. Bradley Shaffer, and Peter Paul van Dijk. Turtles and tortoises of the world during the rise and global spread of humanity: First checklist and review of extinct pleistocene and holocene chelonians. Chelonian Research Monographs (8):1-472
2021 Riedle, J. Daren, Tamera D. Riedle, Zachary Riedle, and Greya Riedle. Herp Count: Montgomery County: KHS-2020-23. Collinsorum 9(3):14-15
2021 Hollender, Ethan C. and Day B. Ligon. Freshwater turtle community composition in strip pit lakes on mined lands. Herpetological Conservation and Biology 16(1):183–193
2021 Powell, Alexis F. L. A., Michael S. Mahr, Jennifer L. Buchanan, Justin J. Autz, and Greg Sievert. New county and drainage records of turtles in waterways of eastern Kansas, USA Herpetological Review 52(3):584–587
Report on 58 records of seven species of turtles in rivers of eastern Kansas that constitute new county records, new drainage records in counties or the state, first county records with precise date or locality information, first records for counties in ≥ 75 years, and that fill gaps in known distributions.
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Travis W. Taggart © 1999-2024 — w/ Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Fort Hays State University