Name: Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta)
Order: Turtles (Testudines)
Family: Pond Turtles (Emydidae)
What they look like
- Painted turtles are medium-sized turtles with a shell length of 4 to 10 inches.
- Females tend to be larger than males, but males have longer foreclaws and longer thicker tails than females do.
- As suggested by their name, painted turtles are ornately colored throughout their body; they have black to olive skin with red and yellow stripes.
- Their lower shells are mostly yellow with varying shapes and sizes of other colors, like red, black, and/or reddish-brown. They have smooth, flattened, and oval upper shells ranging from green to black.
Where they live
- View a map of where they live
- Can be found throughout the entire United States and are the most widely distributed North American turtle
- Spend most of their time either basking during the day or sleeping on pond bottoms during the night
- Most often live in slow-moving shallow waters of ponds, marshes, creeks, and lakes with soft muddy vegetative bottoms and suitable basking sites
What they eat
- Younger painted turtles feed on a wide range of small animals, including crayfish, tadpoles, snails, slugs, insects, small fish, and dead animals.
- Older painted turtles tend to feed more so on aquatic plants.
- Sometime between late May to mid-July, females dig a flask-shaped nest near water in slightly moist or sandy soil at sunny spots.
- Around 2 to 20 eggs are laid and, after around 76 days, the young hatch out of their eggs using a small egg tooth atop their beaks.
- Young are born with more vibrant markings than adults.
Cool Biology Facts
- When young painted turtles are captured by largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), they can oftentimes thrash and claw inside its mouth to the point of being released by the fish.
- As many as 50 painted turtles have been seen basking on a single log!
- Painted turtle populations are healthy and common in Washington state. One of their main threats is vehicle collisions, especially females when they move to and from nesting sites.