Painted Turtle Chrysemys picta

Adult from Wayne County


The Painted Turtle has a smooth olive to brown carapace with light irregular lines, sometimes extending into a netlike pattern. There is less red on the margin of its shell, and the plastron is covered with a large dark figure with dark seams. All Painted Turtles have black or olive skin with yellow stripes on the upper neck, legs, and tail. Also, the upper jaw is notched and has two tooth-like projections.

Adult from Jefferson County
Plastron of adult from Marion County
Ventral view of juvenile from Marion County

Ecology and Conservation

Painted Turtles live in slow-moving permanent bodies of water, preferring a soft bottom, abundant aquatic plant life, and places to bask such as rocks, logs, or floating vegetation. They have been known to occupy other bodies of water such as ditches, and on occasion moderately moving streams or rivers. Painted Turtles are not afraid to move about on land to move to and from water sources.

Adults from Marion County
Pond from Wayne County

In the wild, many predators prey upon Painted Turtles of all life stages, raccoons being chief among them. Human interaction such as habitat destruction, use of pesticides, exploitation in the pet trade, as well as death by firearms and automobiles are the turtle’s biggest threats.


The Painted Turtle ranges naturally from southwest Ontario and southern Missouri, through the Pacific Northwest, but they are nearly absent from Montana. Isolated populations also survive in the Southwest. This species is distributed through most of the Midwest states, specifically Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri.


Scientists typically recognize either a single species of Painted Turtle with four subspecies or two species of Painted Turtle, one of which contains three subspecies. In either case, Indiana's Painted Turtles are best referred to as Midland Painted Turtles (C. p. marginata), perhaps with some influence from the Western Painted Turtle (C. p. belli). These turtles belong to the family Emydidae, which is represented in Indiana by a total of ten species.

Literature Cited

Conant, R. and J. T . Collins. 1998. Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Third Edition, Expanded. Houghton Mifflin, New York, NY.

Ernst, C. H. and J. E. Lovich. 2009. Turtles of the United States and Canada. Second Edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.

Minton, S. A. Jr. 2001. Amphibians and Reptiles of Indiana. Indiana Academy of Science, Indianapolis, IN.

Pierson, T. W. 2012. Chrysemys picta. Painted Turtle. Geographic distribution. Herpetological Review 43:302.

Distribution Map
Distribution of the Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta)

Maps may include both verified and unverified observations. Record verification occurs periodically as time allows.