Species Profile

Pacific Pond Turtle

Scientific Name: Actinemys marmorata
Other/Previous Names: Clemmys marmorata
Taxonomy Group: Reptiles
Range: British Columbia
Last COSEWIC Assessment: May 2012
Last COSEWIC Designation: Extirpated
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Extirpated

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Habitat | Biology | Reasons for extirpation | Protection | Other Protection or Status | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Pacific Pond Turtle

Pacific Pond Turtle Photo 1



The name marmorata is derived from the latin word marmor, which means "marble". It describes the marble patterning on the carapace (dorsal shell) of this medium-sized turtle. In both adults and young, the carapace is olive, dark brown, or black with varying degrees of mottling. The plastron (ventral shell) is yellowish with dark blotches, and the skin colour is grey. Unlike many turtle species, male and female Pacific Pond Turtles are similar in size; the carapace of adults is 9 to 18 cm long. Young turtles have a rough carapace, while adults have a smooth one and a relatively longer tail.


Distribution and Population

The Pacific Pond Turtle is at risk throughout its range. Historically, this species occurred along the west coast of North America from southern British Columbia to Baja California, Mexico, and inland to Nevada. Currently, the main distribution of this species is in coastal California and Baja California, with isolated inland populations. The Pacific Pond Turtle was common in the ponds and lakes of southern British Columbia and Vancouver Island in the mid-1800s, but no sightings have been recorded in Canada since 1959.



The Pacific Pond Turtle is found in slow-moving streams, large rivers, sloughs, and occasionally in brackish water. It is found in water bodies with rocky as well as muddy bottoms and prefers areas with emergent vegetation. It requires deep pools with large woody debris to provide refuges from predators. The Pacific Pond Turtle experiences seasonal drought in portions of its range, and can apparently survive by migrating to persisting pools and estivating (laying dormant) in the mud. Nest sites are in dry, open areas, and this turtle will overwinter in both woodland areas and under water.



This species reaches maturity at approximately 8 to 10 years or at a carapace length of 13.5 to 14 cm. Eggs are laid between May and August. Clutches laid later in the season may spend the winter as hatchlings, or the development of the embryo may be suspended until favourable conditions are met the following spring. Pacific Pond Turtles look for food primarily at sunrise. They eat a wide variety of foods (algae, plants, insects, crustaceans, fish, and frogs) and will also scavenge on dead animals. While basking, Pacific Pond Turtles will aggressively defend their place in the sun, sometimes even pushing a smaller turtle off its perch. Maximum age estimates vary considerably, but this turtle can certainly live more than 20 years in the wild.


Reasons for extirpation

This species was subject to unrelenting commercial harvesting for food in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which caused a significant decline in overall population numbers. Habitat has been, and continues to be, modified or lost as agricultural and urban development increase in North America.



Federal Protection

The Pacific Pond Turtle is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Other Protection or Status

The Pacific Pond Turtle is listed by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Pacific Pond Turtle (Actinemys marmorata) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

12 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Pacific pond turtle Clemmys marmorata in Canada (2002)

    The Pacific pond turtle (Clemmys marmorata) is one of four species in the genus Clemmys, Family Emydidae. This species is further subdivided into a northern and southern subspecies: C.m. marmorata, the northern Pacific pond turtle, and C.m. pallida, the southern Pacific pond turtle. The carapace is olive, dark brown or black with varying degrees of mottling and 9-18 cm in length in adults. The plastron is yellowish with dark blotches, and skin colour is grey. Juvenile turtles differ from adults by having a keeled carapace and a relatively longer tail. (See section on Species Information for a note on potential changes in taxonomy.)

COSEWIC Assessments

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Pacific Pond Turtle (2013)

    This species has not been observed in the Canadian wild in over 50 years.
  • Response Statements - Pacific Pond Turtle (2004)

    A response statement is a communications document that identifies how the Minister of the Environment intends to respond to the assessment of a wildlife species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The document provides a start to the listing and recovery process for those species identified as being at risk, and provides timelines for action to the extent possible.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Pacific Pond Turtle (Actinemys marmorata) in Canada (2015)

    The Minister of the Environment is the competent minister under SARA for the Pacific Pond Turtle, and has prepared the federal component of this recovery strategy (Part 1), as per section 37 of SARA. It has been prepared in cooperation with the Province of British Columbia (B.C.). SARA section 44 allows the Minister to adopt all or part of an existing plan for the species if it meets the requirements under SARA for content (sub-sections 41(1) or (2)). The Province of British Columbia provided the attached recovery plan for the Western Pond Turtle (Part 2) as science advice to the jurisdictions responsible for managing the species in British Columbia. It was prepared in cooperation with Environment Canada.


  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (2004)

    This Order acknowledges receipt by the Governor in Council of the assessments of the status of wildlife species done pursuant to subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The purpose of SARA is to prevent wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.
  • Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act (2005)

    Schedule 1, the List of Wildlife Species at Risk of the Species at Risk Act (SARA), is amended by Order of the Governor in Council (GIC), on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, by the addition of 73 species. This Order is based on scientific assessments by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and follows consultations with provincial and territorial governments, Aboriginal peoples, stakeholders and the public, and analysis of costs and benefits to Canadians.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2011-2012 (2012)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (September 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012) from November 21 to 25, 2011 and from April 29 to May 4, 2012. On February 3, 2012, an Emergency Assessment Subcommittee of COSEWIC also assessed the status of the Tri-colored Bat (Perimyotis subflavus), the Little Brown Myotis (Myotis lucifugus), and the Northern Myotis (Myotis septentrionalis). During the current reporting period COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 67 wildlife species. For species already found on Schedule 1 of SARA, the classification of 32 species was reviewed by COSEWIC and the status of the wildlife species was confirmed to be in the same category (extirpated - no longer found in the wild in Canada but occurring elsewhere, endangered, threatened or of special concern). The wildlife species assessment results for the 2011-2012 reporting period include the following: Extinct: 1 Extirpated: 4 Endangered: 29 Threatened: 10 Special Concern: 15 Data Deficient: 2 Not at Risk: 6 Total: 67 Of the 67 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 49 species that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 26 of those species resulted in a confirmation of the same status as the previous assessment (see Table 1a).

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species Under the Species At Risk Act: March 2004 (2004)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list.
  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species – December 2012 (2013)

    As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Please submit your comments by March 4, 2013, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultations and by October 4, 2013, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations. Consultation paths.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update March 31, 2017