What is a Painted Turtle?

Misty Amber Brighton
Misty Amber Brighton
Raccoons are among the painted turtle's natural enemies.
Raccoons are among the painted turtle's natural enemies.

A painted turtle, or Chrysemys picta, is a reptile that has a colorful head and feet and a mostly neutral-colored shell. Its four legs each have claws for digging through mud and leaves. The legs and head can retract into the shell whenever this species feels threatened or needs to hide. This animal is found primarily in North America, especially the eastern United States.

This species lives primarily in freshwater ponds, lakes, and streams that are slow-moving or stagnant. A painted turtle sleeps on the bottom of these bodies of water by burrowing into the mud located on the bottoms. During the winter, this animal will hibernate, or remain underground for several months until the ground thaws in the spring.

The Chrysemys picta is characterized by an olive green head, neck, and legs. These extremities often have yellow, red, or orange stripes that may appear to have been hand-painted. These stripes are more likely to be seen on the front legs of a painted turtle than on the back ones. The underside of the neck could have patches of color as well.

The shell of this animal is usually brown or gray. The plastron, or section underneath the turtle's body, can sometimes have yellow or orange spots on it. The top part of the shell is usually a solid color, but there might be a bit of yellow or orange around the outer rim of this piece.

The primary diet of a painted turtle consists of insects and small plant matter. This reptile might also consume small fish and minnows from time to time. It could also eat wild fruit, such as berries or crab apples, although this is less common.

Female turtles can sometimes have a shell length of around 10 inches (25.4 cm). Males of this species are generally a little smaller in length and weight than their female counterparts. They also usually have a longer tail and front claws than that of females.

The female of the species lays her eggs by digging a hole in the ground that is approximately four inches deep. The sex of a painted turtle is determined by the temperature of the ground around this hole. A nest in cold ground will generally produce male turtles, while a warmer one will produce females.

A painted turtle has many natural enemies including raccoons, foxes, and beavers. Even so, they normally hide well and can fight by kicking and biting. It may even urinate whenever it has been disturbed.

When left in the wild, this reptile can often live anywhere from 30 to 40 years, providing it can avoid being killed by a predator. When brought into captivity, this animal does not normally fare well. For this reason, people who happen upon this colorful species should refrain from trying to domesticate it as a pet.

Discussion Comments


@gardenturtle: When a painted turtle lays eggs they will usually hatch out in 2-3 months. It could even be 20-340 days.


What is the normal gestation period for the painted turtle?

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    • Raccoons are among the painted turtle's natural enemies.
      By: chas53
      Raccoons are among the painted turtle's natural enemies.