Visit our new website

Canadian Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Network - Réseau Canadien de 
Conservation des Amphibiens et des Reptiles

Chrysemys picta
Tortue peinte / Painted Turtle

Tortue peinte

As its name implies, the Painted Turtle is a colourful animal.It has an olive to black carapace with red markings on the marginal scutes and yellow stripes on the head and neck. The carapace is broad, smooth and flat. There are three subspecies in Canada. The Eastern Painted Turtle (C. p. picta) has an unmarked yellow plastron. This is the only turtle in which the large scutes of the carapace are in more or less straight rows across the back. The Midland Painted Turtle (C. p. marginata) has a yellow plastron with a darker irregular figure along the midline. On the Western Painted Turtle (C. p. belli) the plastron has a dark figure made up of distinct wavy lines or reticulations. The Western subspecies is larger than the other two reaching up to 25 cm carapace length.

Confusing Species
Although the shape is similar to the larger Northern Map Turtle that species is not nearly as colourful as the Painted Turtle and the rear of the carapace is serrated.

The Painted Turtle is found across southern Canada from Nova Scotia to British Columbia although it is found in very few localities on the prairies.It occurs throughout much of the eastern and midwestern United States with scattered populations in the west.

Painted Turtles inhabit ponds, marshes, lakes and creeks with slow moving water. They prefer waterbodies with a soft bottom, abundant basking sites and aquatic vegetation.

Individuals in northern populations may take up to five years to reach sexual maturity. Nesting takes place from late May to early July.A single clutch of up to 23 eggs is laid depending on the subspecies. Nests are dug in loamy or sandy soil in sunny areas. Hatchlings may emerge in the fall but usually overwinter in the nest and emerge the following spring.They can survive temperatures as low as -9oC. Painted Turtles have temperature-dependent sex determination.

Natural history
Painted Turtles are commonly seen basking on logs, rocks or shorelines with easy access to the water. Several animals are often seen basking together.Individuals sometimes move long distances overland from one water body to another or in search of nesting sites. They are opportunistic feeders and eat algae, invertebrates, fish, frogs and carrion. Hibernation occurs on the bottom of waterbodies. Some individuals live for 30-40 years in nature.

Conservation Concerns
Painted Turtles are abundant throughout much of their range.However, nesting females are vulnerable to traffic mortality because they often search road sides for suitable nest sites. The Pacific Coast population of the Painted Turtle in southwestern British Columbia (Vancouver Island and the Fraser River Valley) has been designated Endangered by COSEWIC because of extensive habitat loss. The Intermountain - Rocky Mountain population in eastern BC has been designated Special Concern because of habitat loss.