Meet Jane – an integral part of the Silver Springs State Park
by Cassie Rippel
When you visit the Silver Springs State Park frequently, you may have met Jane, a Suwannee Cooter who lives at the headsprings. You can usually find her sunbathing on a log right where the paddle trail from the kayak launch pours into the headspring.
The Suwannee Cooter (also known as Florida Cooter) is one of the most seen species of turtles on Silver River. They prefer slow moving freshwater waterways with abundant basking possibilities and a variety of aquatic vegetation. An unusual trait of the Suwannee Cooter is their manner of placement on logs in the water, stacking themselves on top of each other like pancakes on a plate.
The easiest way to verify the sex of a Cooter is by their front claws. Male Cooters have long claws, which they need for courtship (from January to August). During courtship, the male positions his neck and head over the female while vibrating his front claws in front of her snout to stimulate her.
Female Cooters nest between March and August and can lay up to 120 eggs. The average incubation is 86 days (although as well as with the sex of the hatchlings, it depends on the temperature).
In the past, the Suwannee Cooter have been hunted for their meat. Now it is illegal to take, possess, or sell the Suwannee Cooter because it is a protected species. The population also faces threats from habitat degradation. Chemical pollution has already caused the Suwannee Cooter to be locally extinct in some areas. But thanks to the clear waters of the Silver River, the Suwannee Cooters are thriving here.
When you see Jane (easily identifiable by the gash in the shell on the right side next to the tail), say hello to her and take some pictures, she really loves that.