Western painted turtle Western painted turtle

One of four subspecies of painted turtle, the western subspecies is the most colorful (reds and oranges) of the four, especially on the plastron (bottom shell). Because of this coloration, this turtle cannot be mistaken for any other species in Wyoming.

Fun Critter Facts

- Painted turtles are the only native species of turtle in the US that occur from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  Western painted turtles are native to a few locales in Wyoming, including the counties bordering Nebraska, and appropriate aquatic habitats below 6,000 feet east and west of the Bighorn Mountains.  This subspecies is much more common and widespread in aquatic habitats in the Great Plains, and across the state of Montana, Idaho, and Washington.  Western painted turtles can also be found in other locations across Wyoming where they are not native (due to well meaning but ill advised pet releases or loss) and have established breeding populations in a few locales, including the city of Green River.  We strongly encourage people to NOT release any legally or illegally possessed wildlife back into the wild, especially where they are not found naturally, due to disease issues and potential for impacts to native species.

-  Painted turtles feed on a wide array of foods, including both animal and plant matter.  Water lilies and duckweed (the world's smallest flowering plant) make up a significant portion of their diet, as do aquatic insects, other invertebrates, small fish, salamanders, and carrion.  

- Painted turtles are primarily aquatic, leaving the water only to bask for warmth (they can often be seen in groups on floating logs, muskrat lodges, or partially submerged rocks), or to lay their eggs in a sandy area well above the water line with southern exposure.  Nests are dug in the sand typically within 200-300 yards of the water.  Eggs are laid during June and early July in Wyoming. Wyoming females tend to lay only one clutch of eggs per year, but clutch size is typically fairly large (about 12).  Hatchlings from early clutches may leave the nest late during the same summer of birth, but they may overwinter in the nest and emerge the following spring.

- Juvenile painted turtles fall victim to a host of predators, from ravens and raccoons, to large fish.  Adults are generally protected from most predators by their tough shell but are commonly road killed on paved roads near water and are very occasionally killed by the larger carnivores.    

Western painted turtle
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