Eastern Spiny Softshell – Apalone spinifera

The Eastern Spiny Softshell turtle is a highly aquatic species that lives in rivers and shorelines of large lakes. It prefers soft bottoms or light gravel to facilitate its habit of laying buried with just the eyes showing in order to ambush passing prey with a lightning strike by the very long neck.

The softshell lacks the horny plates on its shell that most turtles have. Instead its shell is soft and leathery hence its name. The feet are large and webbed belaying a thoroughly aquatic existence. They make landfall only to nest and do so quite close to water. There are a series of tubercle like bumps on the leading edge of the shell giving it the name spiny. Like the snapping turtle the bottom shell is small and much flesh is exposed so like the snappers the softshell is aggressive on land and can deliver a nasty bite. They are excellent swimmers and can move very fast in water.

Softshells are protected from collection and ownership in Ontario under the Fish & Wildlife Conservation Act. Listed as threatened in Ontario and endangered federally, the species and its habitat are also protected under the Endangered Species Act.