Fun River Cooter Facts For Kids

Moumita Dutta
May 11, 2023 By Moumita Dutta
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Jacob Fitzbright
Fact-checked by Tehil David
River cooter facts about a unique freshwater turtle.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.7 Min

The river cooter, Pseudemys concinna, is one of the most popular and common freshwater animals. The name is based on the African word ‘Kuta’ which means ‘turtle’. The eastern river cooter and the Florida and Texas river cooters are three subspecies, where the eastern river cooter is considered to be the most common pet. The other species of cooter may have come to different parts of the world through the pet trade giving way to compete in the market with other species and making terms and topics like river cooter vs yellow-bellied slider, or red-eared slider vs river cooter popular.

If one wants to keep the cooter as a pet, it is important to maintain good aquatic surroundings. Preferably keep it in a tank with 20-100 gallons of water and a dry area where the cooter can enjoy basking in direct sunlight or any UVB radiation from reptile lights. The young river cooters can be fed with a high protein diet like shrimps, crickets, and meat pellets. The adults usually seek a herbivorous diet and can be fed with plants, shredded carrots, fruits, and vegetables. Read on to know more fun facts about the river cooter. To know more about other turtles check out the bog turtle and the snapping turtle.

River Cooter Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a river cooter?

River cooters, Pseudemys concinna, are turtles belonging to the Emydidae family of animals.

What class of animal does a river cooter belong to?

The river cooter, order Testudines, belongs to the Reptilia class of animals.

How many river cooters are there in the world?

Although there are six subspecies of these reptiles, including the eastern river cooter, coastal plain cooters or Florida river cooter, and Suwannee cooters or the southern river cooter, the Texas river cooter, their exact population is yet unknown. Their conservation status is considered to be of Least Concern.

Where does a river cooter live?

River cooter native habitat is focused in the North American regions. They are found living in parts of Ohio, Texas, Virginia, southern Indiana, Florida, and Oklahoma too. Apart from these places of origin, these species are found in some countries in Europe, such as Spain, and other countries where the habitat is favorable for river cooters.

What is a river cooter's habitat?

River cooters are freshwater turtles. They are usually spotted in a habitat that provides easy access to a freshwater river, lake, pond, or spring with a moderate water current. They are also found in the tidal marshes as well as a few saltwater tributaries. Their habitat might vary a little according to the subspecies. They can also be terrestrial when it comes to nesting and acts like basking in the sun.

Who do river cooters live with?

Although river cooters are often spotted moving around in small groups or pairs, these turtles are solitary. They, just like aquatic turtles, are found in the water for most of their lives, except when they are basking or nesting. While basking, they usually do so in their small group of two or more individuals. A group of these turtles might be called a nest, a bale, or a dole of turtles.

How long does a river cooter live?

River cooters can live between 20 and 40 years.

How do they reproduce?

There are a lot of things the male and female river cooters do before they engage in the mating process. The male is known to attract the female by doing different things like sticking its head and neck out, touching the female's face and carapace with their claws, as well as following the females and biting the edge of their shell until the females reciprocate. Once the females accept them, they swim to the bottom of the pond where the males follow them and mating takes place. The male mounts the female and impregnates her. After mating, the females can have a gestation period of 10 months to two years. This is because they usually pair up with different partners throughout their breeding season and it is the female who decides when she wants to fertilize the eggs.

These species engage in an early spring nesting cycle where the river cooter turtle nest is usually dug by the females with the help of their hind claws a little above the ground level. She lays the eggs in a clutch of 10 to 25 eggs in the early spring between May to June. The average of one clutch is considered to be 20 eggs.  The mothers of this species can have a brood two to six times per year. The eggs hatch around three to four months later.

What is their conservation status?

River cooters, including all their subspecies like the eastern river cooter and the Texas and Florida cooter, are considered a species of Least Concern according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The ones in Indiana are considered Endangered species locally.

River Cooter Fun Facts

What do river cooters look like?

Close-up of a river cooter resting on a rock.

The hatchlings of these turtles are bright green and have light markings on their body. As these cooters grow, their color darkens and they have a shell with different patterns of yellow, green, brown, and black. All the cooters' shell patterns are distinctive. Although males and females have similar physical characteristics, they can be identified by slight differences in appearance. The male is usually smaller with a flatter shell than the females, who in turn have shorter claws than the males.

The water current also plays an important role in the life of these semi-aquatic species. The turtles who try to save their shell from dislodging due to the strong current usually have a flatter, and therefore weaker, carapace, while the ones with the naturally developed dome shape have stronger shells.

How cute are they?

All river cooters are considered to be cute due to their adaptability, interesting markings, and the small size of a hatchling. They can be kept as amicable pets which makes them all the more appealing to humans.

How do they communicate?

They use tactile cues, usually seeking to touch with their claws to show affection towards their mate. In case of danger in the wild, these cooters go inside their shells when spotted by others around, sensing a threat. These reptiles mainly use their auditory and visual abilities rather than their olfactory skills to perceive.

How big is a river cooter?

Cooters are three to four times bigger than bog turtles. The river cooter's size can be anywhere between 9.1-17 in (23-43 cm) in length. Cooters have an average carapace length between 8.7-11.2 in.

How fast can a river cooter move?

Although the exact speed of these cooters is not known they are said to move fast in the water and on land. Their webbed claws help them to swim swiftly even in strong currents of water.

How much does a river cooter weigh?

This freshwater turtle can weigh anywhere up to 11 lb (5 kg).

What are the male and female names of the species?

River cooter is a gender-neutral name used for the species irrespective of their sex.

What would you call a baby river cooter?

The hatchling is usually born during August or September. This western baby river cooter or any babies of river cooters are called hatchlings.

What do they eat?

Although aquatic plants form the majority of their diet, these river cooters are omnivores in nature. Their diet includes living or dead small animals like fish, bugs, crayfish, worms, green algae, and eelgrass. Their non-meat diet includes many of the small aquatic plants easily available in their immediate surroundings. During cold winters these cooters can go on living underwater in rivers and ponds for around 160 days without anything to eat.

Are they aggressive?

Wild cooters can be aggressive. Although the exact range of their aggression has not been reported. The domesticated semi-aquatic ones on the other hand are not said to be as aggressive.

Would they make a good pet?

River cooters being adapted into pets is quite a common sight. These turtles are sold in a wide range of countries as pet animals. They are easy to maintain, calm, good-natured, and healthy creatures, making them great pets and companions. People often buy a river cooter turtle terrarium for their pet baby. Although many times, these home tanks turn out to be too small for the river cooters once they grow into an adult.

Did you know...

The river cooter, Pseudemys concinna, is a diurnal animal and is therefore active during the day. They are active throughout the winter unless they are exposed to extremely cold weather, in which case, the Pseudemys concinna, or Pseudemys floridana, or eastern river cooter is known to hibernate for months in the mud. They do not need to come to the surface of the water as they can use the oxygen from the water to survive.

A river cooter shedding scutes is something a pet owner or observer can see where they shed the older scute to give way for a newer scute.

What other animals are river cooters often found with?

These cooters may be found with a few species of aquatic turtles. River cooters, slider turtles, and painted turtles are the basking turtles usually seen on the logs in a group and sometimes even in a pile on top of each other in the process.

Where do river cooters sleep?

These semi-aquatic cooters are diurnal creatures and are known to sleep in the water. They usually find a place for themselves, hidden in the water under aquatic plants and vegetation at night, as they are secretive animals by nature.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other reptiles including the painted turtle and the turtle.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one of our river cooter coloring pages.

River Cooter Facts

What Did They Prey On?

Small fish, bugs, worms

What Type of Animal were they?


Average Litter Size?


How Much Did They Weigh?

Up to 11 lb (5 kg)

What habitat Do they Live In?

tidal marshes, freshwater lakes, ponds, rivers, saltwater tributaries

Where Do They Live?

north america, ohio, texas, virginia, indiana, florida, oklahoma

How Long Were They?

9.1-17 in (23-43 cm)

How Tall Were They?








Scientific Name

Pseudemys concinna

What Do They Look Like?

Green, brown, yellow, and black markings

Skin Type

Scales, carapace shell

What Are Their Main Threats?

humans, raccoons, otters, red foxes

What is their Conservation Status?

Least Concern
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Written by Moumita Dutta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

Moumita Dutta picture

Moumita DuttaBachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.

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