Painted Turtle

Common Name - Painted Turtle

Category - Reptiles

Scientific Name - Chrysemys picta

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class - Reptilia

Order - Testudines

Family - Emydidae

Genus - Chrysemys

Species - picta


Description - Yellow and red stripes on head, neck and legs; smooth dark greenish black upper shell, or carapace; yellowish stripe between the scales on shell, or scutes; bright red and yellow-orange ridges along the rim of the carapace; males have very long front toenails

Size - 3.15 – 9.84 in. (8 – 25 cm) long 

Ecological Role - Young painted turtles are carnivorous, eating primarily worms and insects. Adults are omnivores, feeding on both animals and plants such as arrowhead, duckweed, and parts of the cattail. They are also opportunistic feeders, meaning they eat the food that is available. Thirteen-lined ground squirrels, raccoons, skunks, opossum, garter snakes, and foxes prey on the eggs. Black racers, bullfrogs, large fish, crows, mink and muskrat feed on young hatchlings. The painted turtle uses trees that have fallen into the water for basking sites. Hatchlings take cover in plants, such as Joe-Pye-weed, growing in or near water. They may bask on the larger leaves of waterlily.

Fun Facts - Turtles, like other reptiles, are cold-blooded; that is, their body temperature fluctuates with the temperature of the surroundings. Since their internal body temperature must be warm in order for digestion to occur, sun basking is a necessary activity for all turtles. Basking increases the internal temperature, aiding in food digestion and maintaining a healthy immune system.

Female painted turtles are larger than males because the female's body must accommodate for egg production and delivery.

Painted turtles are one of the most colorful of the turtles, having bright colors on both the upper and lower portions of the shell and on the head, neck, legs, and tail. There are two subspecies of painted turtles in Kentucky, the midland and the southern painted turtle.

Food - Young eat mostly maggots, earthworms, insect larvae, and beetles; adults eat insects, snails, crayfish, tadpoles, dead animal matter, and plants such as arrowhead


Nest - Nesting occurs from May to July; females excavate nests in soft sandy soils, ditches, gravel lots and fields; egg-laying usually occurs late afternoon

Breeding - March through August; courtship and breeding occur in water; males flutter their long claws in a courtship dance to impress the females

Eggs - White and granular, not smooth; 5 – 18 eggs per clutch; hatch in 70 – 80 days; temperature determines sex of the hatchlings; warm temperatures produce female turtles, cool temperatures produce males

Habitat - Marshes, ponds, lakes, creeks and rivers with good basking sites, such as logs, root wads, rocks and floating debris

Kentucky Distribution - Statewide

Life Cycle

Life Span

Life Stage


Seasonal Changes - The painted turtle hibernates during the winter in muddy bottoms of ponds or under loose rocks.


Status - Secure



Young - Hatchlings about size of a dime; dig out and disperse from the nest to survive on their own; live 15 – 20 years 

What We Can Do - Ensure appropriate basking locations, such as fallen trees and stumps in the water, to accommodate the local population of turtles. Do not disturb turtle nests. Do not take turtles out of the wild. Captive turtles should be handled with caution. Turtles, like many other animals, may carry the bacteria Salmonella.


Diagnosis and Control

Interesting Facts

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