Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera)
Description: Spiny softshell turtles have leathery, flat shells with spines along the front of their carapace. Their nose is long and snorkel like and their feet are fully webbed. These turtles spend much of their time in the water, only coming out to soak up some rays or lay eggs.
Males are typically much smaller than females growing between 5-10 inches in length. Females can grow between 7-19 inches in length!
Habitat: This species prefers freshwater rivers, lakes and reservoirs with a sandy or muddy bottom. They also require clean waters as they are sensitive to pollutants.
Conservation Status: Listed as Special Concern in New York State, meaning they are a vulnerable species and could be lost if they are not protected.
Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratum)
Description: The musk turtle, aka “stinkpot,” is a small turtle with an oval, high-domed carapace that is often covered in algae. These turtles are equipped with four odor producing glands underneath the carapace, enabling it to musk anything or anyone that disturbs it.
These turtles may reach a maximum of 5 inches in length.
Habitat: Stinkpots prefer slow moving, mucky bottomed rivers and streams and will often take refuge in shallow, weedy outlets found along waterways.
Conservation Status: This species is common throughout its range; however, their range is very limited in different parts of New York State. See their range map here.
Description: Ospreys are large birds of prey often referred to as “fish hawks” as they eat live fish and dive in the water to catch them. These birds can be identified by their white head, dark crown and brown streak on each side of the face. Their wingspan can reach 4 to 6 feet and when flying, they have a characteristic kink in their wings forming an “M” shape.
Habitat: These large birds live near fish filled rivers, lakes, lagoons, swamps and marshes.
Conservation Status: Osprey are listed as Special Concern in New York State, but have been rebounding since the ban of DDT Pesticides. Their presence indicates a healthy habitat that supports the various resources these birds need to feed and nest.
Green Heron and Other Shorebirds
Description: A short and stocky heron, the green heron has a long yellow legs with a light green back, chestnut brown body and dark cap. These shorebirds quietly stalk fish along the water’s edge and often go unnoticed.
Habitat: Green herons reside along wooded ponds, marshes, rivers, reservoirs and estuaries.
Conservation Status: While common in New York State, these birds rely on healthy habitats that support ample fish and insect prey as well as proper nesting materials.
Description: A large clubtail dragonfly with a dark abdomen and green striping on the thorax. The unicorn clubtail gets its name from the small spike found on the head in between the eyes.
Habitat: Unicorn Clubtails are typically found around natural and artificial ponds as well as lakes and slow moving streams with muddy bottoms.
Conservation Status: This species of clubtail is common in New York State. These insects rely on healthy water bodies as they lay their eggs and their larvae develop completely underwater! After the adults emerge, they stay near water to hunt other insects such as mosquitoes, midges, moths and even small butterflies. Having healthy systems supports these insects and their presence helps manage other insect populations.
Description: A member of the weasel family, the River Otter can be identified by its long, streamlined body and stout, short legs. They have a characteristically tapered tail that is 1/3 the length of their body. Their coat is sleek and shiny and varies from light to dark brown in color.
Habitat: River otter are typically found in rivers, lakes, ponds, small streams, marshes and inland wetlands.
Conservation Status: Now considered common in New York State, this species of mammal is special to see as they were once absent from this part of New York State. Due to unregulated harvest, habitat destruction and pollutants such as PCBs and heavy metals, the river otter declined and essentially disappeared from the western part of NY. Through reintroduction, regulations on harvest and the improvement of habitat, river otters can once again be seen throughout Western NY. These mammals are top predators within their habitats and help regulate the populations of many other species.