Stinkpot Sternotherus odoratus

Description: Morphology: Stinkpots are small, brown or gray turtles with domed shells. They typically have two white or yellow stripes on their faces that run from the nose to the back of the head, although this coloration often fades with age. They have many "barbels"fleshy protuberanceson the neck. Stinkpots have relatively reduced plastrons (bottom of shell) with one (anterior) hinge.

Size: Stinkpots grow to a carapace length of approximately 6 in.

Juveniles: Juveniles are similar to adults, but have brighter markings and there are often knobs at the top of their carapace (top of shell).

Eggs: Typical clutch sizes are 2-5 eggs. Eggs are small and elliptical in shape, with a brittle white shell.

Similar Species: These turtles are often confused with eastern mud turtles (Kinosternon subrubrum), but the latter has two plastral hinges and no obvious facial stripes. Stinkpots can also be confused with both snapping turtles, but the latter grows to much larger sizes, lacks facial stripes, and has a serrated back edge to its shell, pronounced ridges on the carapace, and a long spiny tail.

Distribution: Stinkpots are distributed across most of Indiana, although they have disappeared from much of the agricultural landscape.

Activity: Stinkpots are active from the early spring to late fall.

Breeding Season: Mating can occur throughout the warmer months of the year in Indiana (but especially in the spring and fall), and nesting occurs between May and July.

Taxonomy: The Stinkpot (Sternotherus odoratus) has no subspecies. The Stinkpot belongs to the genus Sternotherus and is in the family Kinosternidae which is also represented in Indiana by Kinosternon subrubrum.

Ecology: Stinkpots are extremely aquatic, and they can be found in many bodies of water. However, because they are so aquatic, they rarely inhabit temporary or ephemeral bodies of water. Typically, they live in lentic (non-flowing) bodies of water and are almost never found in fast-moving streams.

They are omnivores, foraging on various small vertebrates, invertebrates, and detritus.

These turtles are rarely found basking and are typically encountered swimming in the shallows of calm bodies of water.

Habitat: Stinkpots occur in almost any still or slow-moving water, including ponds, lakes, sloughs, ditches, and slow streams. They prefer the shallow habitats around shorelines, where they can be seen foraging for prey. They occasionally bask on logs, and they are known for their surprisingly good climbing ability.

Feeding: Stinkpots are true omnivores, eating a variety of invertebrates, small vertebrates, carrion, and plant matter. They forage in the shallows and seem to prefer insect larvae and snails.

Breeding: Stinkpots mate aquatically and lay their eggs on land near the water. They usually bury them in decaying vegetation or loose soil, and they are known to nest in groups.


Conant, R. and J. T . Collins. 1998. Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Third Edition, Expanded. Houghton Mifflin, New York, New York

Ernst, C. H. and J. E. Lovich. 2009. Turtles of the United States and Canada. Second Edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD

Kinney, V. C., N. J. Engbrecht, J. L. Heemeyer, and M. J. Lannoo. 2010. New County Records for Amphibians and Reptiles in Southwestern Indiana. Herpetological Review 41.3:387

Minton, S. A. Jr. 2001. Amphibians and Reptiles of Indiana. Indiana Academy of Science, Indianapolis, IN

Distribution Map
Distribution map of Stinkpot (Sternotherus odoratus)