Five fast facts about painted turtles

Five fast facts about painted turtles

Spring has sprung in the Credit River Watershed and painted turtles are turtle-ly loving the recent warmth. Turtles and snakes are the first reptiles to be sighted after overwintering. Ontario is home to two painted turtle species: The Midland Painted Turtle and Western Painted Turtle. The Midland Painted Turtle, recently classified as ‘at risk’ in southern Ontario, is more commonly found in the Credit River Watershed.

Painted turtles live in slow moving rivers, streams, ponds, lakes and marshes that have muddy bottoms, aquatic plants and exposed rocks and logs. The next time you’re out in nature with a friend and spot a painted turtle, wow them with these five neat facts:

1. They can live a long time

The average life span of a painted turtle is 20 to 30 years old but they’ve been known to live over 50!

2. They live a life of leisure

Painted turtles bask in the sun for five to six hours a day. When they aren’t sun bathing, they’re enjoying a meal made up of fish, worms, insects and aquatic plants. Interestingly, painted turtles can’t freely move their tongues on land, so they must eat in the water to manipulate food and wash it down.

A painted turtle basking in the sun.

A painted turtle basking in the sun.

3. Male turtles are the ones with long, pretty nails.

During mating season, male painted turtles use their long nails to stroke the female’s head. If the female likes what she sees, she’ll sink down to the bottom of the water and wait for the male to mate with her.

4. Female turtles are amniotes

While painted turtles spend the majority of their time in water, female turtles are amniotes, which means they lay their eggs on land. They prefer their nests to be dug in soft, sandy soil with good exposure to the sun. The nests are dug with the turtle’s hind feet, usually within 200 meters of water.

Three painted turtle eggs. Photo credit to: Rich Sajdak, Flickr Creative Commons

Three painted turtle eggs. Photo credit to: Rich Sajdak, Flickr Creative Commons

5. Baby turtles get tough love

After the female lays her eggs, she provides no parental care for the baby turtles, known as hatchlings. When the hatchlings come out of their nests, usually at night, they are on their own to find water and survive.

Turtles are an important part of a healthy ecosystem. Learn more about reptiles in the Credit River Watershed by visiting our wildlife page, check out our Instagram page to see awesome wildlife pictures or share your wildlife sightings by tagging us on Twitter.

6 Comment
  • Aviva Patel says:

    Great article!
    Would be great to promote the addition of basking logs or similar structures to landowners for their ponds, this is the perfect season to see turtles basking!

  • Debbie Berg says:

    Re Painted Turtles-perhaps you could let people know about the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre near Peterborough. They take in injured turtles (mainly from cars unfortunately) and try to fix them. They are released when better. If females come in and die, they will extract the eggs and try to hatch them. They are non-profit.

  • Ash Baron says:

    Great idea, Aviva. It may also be useful for the article to mention that releasing red-eared sliders (a species common in the pet trade) could impact native turtles through the introduction of disease, competition for resources, etc.

  • The Painted Turtle - Wiarton says:

    Thanks for always providing such fabulous information about our environment and it’s inhabitants! I love snakes, turtles and all things “slubbery” as my niece calls them! Keep up the great work! 🙂

  • Scott K says:

    One spot I often see turtles is on basking logs at the pond off Roberts Side Trail at the Silver Creek Conservation area.

  • Bob says:

    Now that article really “painted” a vivid turtle picture!

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