Our Wild Neighbors

Painted Turtle

Chrysemys picta

A threatened urban pond dweller in Central and Western Canada

Image of a Painted Turtle, seen from an angle, and mounted with its head to the right.

Description of the animal

  • Small freshwater turtle.
  • Shell length: up to 20 centimetres.
  • Smooth, dark-coloured carapace.
  • Yellow plastron (belly shell).
  • Shell edges marked with red patterns on some individuals.
  • Head and neck have yellow and red streaks and spots.

Habitat and needs

  • Likes slow-flowing, shallow water where vegetation is surfacing.
  • Eats, mates, and hibernates in water. At night, the Painted Turtle sleeps at the bottom of the water or on partially submerged objects.
  • Is classified among threatened species, in part due to the proliferation of predators like raccoons.
  • Migrates more than 150 metres from the edge of the water to lay its eggs. The female leaves in the spring, digs a 10-centimetre hole, lays up to 23 eggs in it, and covers them with dirt.
  • Eats primarily tadpoles and invertebrates when it is very young: aquatic insects, crayfish, snails.... As it becomes older, its diet changes and it becomes omnivorous, even eating carrion.
  • From daybreak, spends a lot of time basking in the sun to raise its body temperature.
  • Is active during daylight hours.

Relationship

  • Too many Painted Turtles are run over and killed on highways, particularly during spring and fall migrations.
  • When they line up and pile on top of one another in the sun, it’s quite a sight! At times, there are more than 20 in a single spot.
  • The Painted Turtle is sensitive to fluctuations in water levels.
  • Damage to wetlands is harmful to the Painted Turtle: pollution, erosion of banks, filling of wetlands, destruction of riparian vegetation.…

Living with them

  • Protect and respect wetlands: they are sanctuaries for the Painted Turtle.
  • Keep your distance; do not disturb turtles for no reason.
  • The Painted Turtle is not a pet. Laws prohibit capturing them and keeping them in an aquarium.
  • Do not release an exotic turtle in the wild. It will compete with the Painted Turtle and may carry fatal diseases.
  • Positive efforts:
  • Create crossings for reptiles and amphibians on roads that separate marshes from nesting areas.
  • Install road signs indicating a turtle crossing.

Participating cities where this animal has been seen