Softshells have a flat, smooth, leathery carapace that does not have scutes. The carapace is gray-brown with dark spots or rings. They get their name from the tiny soft spines on the anterior margin of their carapace. The plastron is narrow and pale yellow or white. The females are 10-19 inches long, while the males are only 5-10 inches. They have a very long neck and a thin tubular snout. Their skin is tan or olive with black markings. They have two light stripes on the side of their face.
Softshells are entirely aquatic and are very fast in the water. They also bask often. In Vermont they are found only in the Northeast corner of Lake Champlain near the Lamoille and Missisquoi River deltas.
This species has a state natural heritage rank of S1 (very rare). The Spiny Softshell has been designated a Species of Greatest Conservation Need (high priority) in Vermont’s Wildlife Action Plan, and is threatened in Vermont. Please report all sightings of this species in Vermont. Take photos if possible. Even historic sighting information is useful.
Species summary written by Kaile Burgess.
__________. 2010. Rare turtle finds its voice. Burlington Free Press (September 5, 2010), D1. Available as text-only PDF. (PDF reprints of copyrighted material used with permission from author.) PDF printed from Free Press site http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2010100904009 (accessed September 9, 2010).
__________. 2010. The turtle man gives rare hatchlings a fighting chance. Burlington Free Press (September 5, 2010). Available as PDF with pictures or text-only PDF. (PDF reprints of copyrighted material used with permission from author.) PDFs printed from Free Press site http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2010100903019 (accessed September 9, 2010)
December 2012: Adam Kane, Director of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, gives a commentary on Vermont Public Radio. Read the transcript, watch the video, or listen to the podcast at http://www.vpr.net/episode/54936/kane-diving-for-turtles/