Painted Turtles: The kind we see most often

By Dave Hanks

First of all, some turtles are actually tortoises. A tortoise is a land animal and has club-feet to enable it to move better on the ground. On the other hand, turtles are water creatures and their structure has been adapted to do well in that medium. When we have been lucky enough to see turtles, the painted species seems to be the one that we see most of the time. This is probably due to the fact that it is the most widespread turtle species in North America. Another reason to see it more often is its love of crawling up on a log to bask in the warm sunshine.

The Painted Turtle is in the family Emydidae, which are pond and box turtles. There are several Painted sub-species. This reptile has a smooth carapace (top) that is either black or olive and is trimmed in yellow. Its head, neck, and legs have yellow, longitudinal, streaks; and also, a red patch behind each eye. This turtle can be found in shallow, slow-moving streams, rivers, and lakes. These types of water bodies have soft bottoms covered with vegetation, and often harbor partially submerged logs conditions favored by this animal.

They nest from May to July, and will produce 1 to 2 clutches in the north or 2-4 clutches in the south. A flask-shaped nest cavity is dug 4 inches deep on land. Incubation takes 10 to 11 weeks. But northern young that hatch late may overwinter in the nest. The young are carnivorous, but become herbivorous as they mature. Alligators and raccoons are their greatest enemies. If they survive, the males will reach maturity in 2-5 years females in 4-8.

When you see some sunning, lined-up single file on a log, you must approach cautiously because they will readily plop back into the water and disappear from sight. It is hard to become attached to a reptile, but this one could certainly be a candidate for that rare honor.

(A favorite activity: Basking on a log along the shore)