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Midland Painted Turtle

Credit: Kayla Martin

Chrysemys picta marginata

Painted turtles, common and widespread within their range, are known for the red and yellow markings. The midland painted turtle is a subspecies of painted turtle and is the only subspecies found in the Georgian Bay Biosphere.

Species at Risk Status

Federal Government status: Special Concern

Provincial Government status: Not at risk


  • Typically 11-14  cm in length
  • Smooth, dark carapace (upper shell), flatter than in other turtle species. Red blotches along the outer edge (marginal scutes).
  • Dark greenish-grey skin with yellow stripes along the face, turning to red stripes near the base of the neck. Also some smaller red lines on the limbs.
  • Plastron (shell on underside) is yellow with a darker patch in the centre.


  • Diet shifts with age: younger painted turtles are mainly carnivorous and shift to herbivorous as they get older.
  • Young painted turtles commonly eat aquatic insects, small fish, frogs, tadpoles, snails, leeches, and carrion.
  • Older painted turtles mainly eat aquatic plants like milfoil and water lilies.

Habits and Reproduction

  • Active from early spring through fall, but dormant over the winter.
  • They often bask together on logs and rocks, especially when it’s sunny.
  • Females nest from late May through early July, excavating a nest site in sandy/gravelly soil. Nest sites are usually a south-facing, sunny location within 200 m of water.
  • An average of 8 eggs are laid, though it can range from 3-17 depending on the size and age of the female.
  • Hatchlings emerge from eggs in the fall. Sometimes they remain buried in the nest and overwinter as hatchlings, then emerge from the nest the following spring.
  • Temperature during incubation determines whether the eggs will hatch as male or female turtles: males are produced when temperatures are low and females when temperatures are warmer.
  • Painted turtles can live a long time — over 50 years!


  • Slow-moving water, such as ponds, marshes, and lakes and slow-moving creeks with soft mud and plenty of aquatic vegetation.
  • Basking objects such as logs and rocks at the water’s surface.
  • Overwinter in the soft mud at the bottom of the water or below undercut banks.


  • Habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation (particularly in southern Ontario).
  • Road mortality, especially during nesting season when turtles are moving over land to find nest sites. (Check out our post on how to help turtles across a road!)
  • Turtle nests are commonly predated by animals such as raccoons, skunks, and foxes — all of which tend to be more common in areas where humans live.

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