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Painted Turtle

(Chrysemys picta)    

Identification: Shell hard, smooth, somewhat flattened; bright yellow lines on head and limbs; lower shell orange or reddish, with dark markings (most conspicuous in juveniles); upper shell often with narrow yellow lines (less yellow in larger individuals), less often with network of dark lines; upper jaw notched at tip; upper shell of female up to about 25 cm (9.8 inches), though rarely more than 21 cm (8 inches); males much smaller.  

Mature male: Vent located beyond rear edge of upper shell carapace when tail is extended; claws on front feet very long; lower shell flat.  

Mature female: Vent at or inside rear edge of carapace when tail is extended; claws on front feet relatively short.  

Hatchling: Upper shell keeled; lower shell vivid orange/red, with a central dark figure having a sinuous outer edge.  

Colorado Distribution: Throughout most of eastern Colorado, locally in La Plata and Archuleta counties in southwestern Colorado. Introduced and established in several areas in western Colorado. Common.  

View the distribution of observed Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta) on a map

Habitat: Permanent ponds, reservoirs, marshes, river backwaters, slow-moving streams, and nearby temporary waters such as those that are seasonally flooded. Favors waters with a soft bottom, abundant aquatic vegetation, and partially submerged logs or other places for basking. Often many bask on a single log.   

Life History: Nests in sunny areas up to several hundred yards from water. A female may lay more than one clutch of eggs in a single year and may skip a year between nestings. Most hatchlings overwinter in the nest and emerge the following spring.


Revised: July 24, 2003