Maine State Reptile
Eastern Painted Turtle (common name)
Chrysemys picta picta (scientific name)
There are four types of painted turtles: eastern, southern, midland, and western. Though they’re all similar in shape and coloring, there is some variation in the shell and markings between the four species. Their common name comes from the varied yellow and orange markings on their shells and skins. As its name suggests, the eastern painted turtle is commonly found in the eastern United States, though its range does overlap the midland painted turtle’s in the north.
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The eastern painted turtle’s slightly flat, oval, brown to black shell is made up of straight rows of plates. The front edges of the larger plates make clear, olive green bands across the shell. On the underside, this turtle’s shell ranges from yellow to orange and is often a fairly solid color, though it’s possible for it to have a few dark markings. The shell’s margins are black and red. Skin, like the shell, is olive to black overall. This type of painted turtle has two yellow spots on the head. Males are generally smaller than females; have longer, wider tails; and have longer front claws.
Up to 30 years; average 15 years.
Permanent, shallow, soft-bottomed bodies of freshwater with basking areas and abundant plants. These include marshes, lakes, ponds, and slow-flowing rivers. Occasionally also brackish water.
Range: From Nova Scotia south and west to Georgia.
Conservation Status: Least Concern (LC). This turtle is common throughout its range and faces no serious threats. Raccoons are the eastern painted turtle’s most common predator, and can kill an adult turtle. Some eagles, hawks, snakes, fish, bullfrogs, herons, and snapping turtles prey on eastern painted turtle hatchlings.
Eastern painted turtles often hibernate during the colder months and mate when they emerge in spring, though in very warm areas they can be active year-round. After mating, a female digs a shallow nest near water. She chooses a location with soft, sandy or loamy soil for digging, and ensures that the bottom of the nest is damp. Most eastern painted turtles build one or two nests per year, but up to five or six are sometimes possible. A female can lay up to 20 soft-shelled eggs per nest. She then covers the nest and eggs with sand to protect it from predators. Eggs hatch roughly 76 days later.
Hatchlings are fully formed and independent, but they often spend their first winter in the nest. Males are usually mature by the time they’re four years old, but females can take up to 10 years to reach maturity. This turtle spends most of its time underwater, but will bask in the sun in warm weather. It chooses basking sites that allow it to dive under water quickly when startled. Eastern painted turtles often bask in groups on a log or rock, usually in mornings and evenings. In the middle of the day, they forage for food, often underwater.
Insects, worms, tadpoles, leeches, frogs, snails, small fish, carrion, algae, and floating greens.
Breeding interval: Annual
Hatching period: Aug–Oct
Average nest size: 8 eggs
Size at birth: 1 in (2.5 cm)
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