The Painted Turtle has a slightly domed carapace (shell that covers the back) that is solid green to black and smooth all over with no keel. The scutes on the carapace are outlined in a lighter green or off-white. The plastron (shell covering the belly) is wide and either solid yellow or yellow with a dark irregular central blotch. The length of the carapace is 5-7 inches. Their skin is green with yellow spots and stripes. They have two distinctive yellow spots on each side of their neck. At the base of their neck, and on their legs, the yellow stripes are replaced with red stripes. The undersides of the outer scutes of the carapace are very colorful with yellow, red, and green markings. The red markings disappear gradually after death, leaving only yellow and green.
Get more detailed identification and life history information by downloading the chart here.
You can learn more about this species and see some video footage by checking out this short clip or this longer clip about nesting turtles from our Rattlers, Peepers & Snappers DVD. Find answers to some frequently asked questions about turtle nesting, what to do if a turtle nests on your property, and how to protect turtle nests at this link.
Painted Turtles are mostly aquatic but bask often. The females leave the water to lay eggs or to travel to new ponds. They like soft-bottomed ponds and lakes with emergent vegetation and basking spots.
This species has a state natural heritage rank of S5 (common). Please report sightings of this species in Vermont if you have not reported them within the last five years from a given location. Any natural history observations (feeding, migrations, road crossing areas, early or late season appearance, abnormalities, etc.) are appreciated. Photographs are always helpful, particularly if your report is the first report of this species from a town.
- Chrysemys picta at Animal Diversity website
- Chrysemys picta at Canadian Herpetological Society website
Species summary written by Ariel K. McK. Burgess.