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Eastern Painted Turtle

Scientific name: Chrysemys picta

This is probably our most commonly seen turtle. They enjoy the sun and bask up to six hours a day. They are often seen on logs and stumps in marshes, ponds and lakes, sometimes even piled up on one another. The sun helps them to produce vitamin D and also kills off parasites. To avoid predators, they quickly head into the water when disturbed. They can hold their breath and swim underwater.

Note the bright stripes and spots on the head, neck and legs, which give this turtle its name. On the other hand, its upper shell, called the carapace, is dark and plain.  The lower or bottom shell is called the plastron and it is yellow. They shed their shells as they grow!

Credit: Greg Schechter
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Interesting Info

  • The gender of the turtle is determined by how warm the egg is during its incubation period. Cooler temperatures produce males, while warmer ones (usually above 84 degrees), produce females.
  • Painted turtles have been around since the last Ice Age, 15 million years ago. We know this because their fossils have been found.
  • You can count the rings on the shell of a painted turtle to determine its age.


They are omnivorous. Painted turtles will eat fish, insects, plants, fruit, carrion and anything else that they can find.


This is the most common native turtle in North America. It is found in ponds, lakes, and marshes where the water is still or slow moving.

Life Cycle

The painted turtle has been known to live up to 50 years.

The breeding season begins in the late spring, after the turtles emerge from hibernation in the mud.  Eggs hatch in August or September. The female becomes sexually mature between the age of 6 and 16. The male matures more quickly at between two and nine years. Both genders continue to grow in size until this time.

Females may move long distances to seek a suitable nesting site. They prefer sandy soil in the sun, not far from water.  On average 4-14 eggs are laid.

Ecosystem Connections

They are a food source for animals such as the fox, otter and raccoon. The eggs are particularly vulnerable.

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