All About Cooters

After we admitted Opal, our second river cooter patient, we saw a lot of incredibly immature, suggestive, and even offensive comments.

We loved all of them.

Yes, there really are turtles called cooters. That’s their actual name. Tennessee has tons of cooters. Specifically, we’re home to the subspecies known as the Eastern river cooter. It’s a big wet cooter that lives, as the name suggests, mostly in rivers, though it sometimes shows up in lakes and marshes.

River cooters are members of the pond turtle family and are close relatives of pond sliders, map turtles, painted turtles, and (believe it or not!) box turtles. Unlike many of their relatives, cooters are pretty strictly herbivorous and eat mostly algae and other aquatic plants. They help maintain a balanced ecosystem by preventing algae blooms from getting out of hand, which can— if left unchecked— cause whole ecosystems to collapse. We’ve found that our coolers also love flower petals and chopped fruit as treats.

Cooters are in trouble! While they’re not considered to be endangered yet, their populations are declining as a result of habitat loss, pollution, and traffic. These very slow beauties often get hit by cars while crossing roads in search of cleaner habitats or places to lay eggs. Please brake for cooters! If you see a cooter in the road, please help it by carrying it across in the direction it’s already going and then leaving it alone. Never kidnap a cooter from the wild! They require spacious, well-maintained habitats and need to stay in nature where they belong.

Like and share if you love cooters! We sure do!

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