Discover Maryland's Herps

Field Guide to Maryland's Turtles (Order Testudines)

Family Emydidae

Eastern Painted Turtle
Chrysemys p. picta

Photo of Eastern Painted Turtle courtesy of Corey Wickliffe
Photo of Eastern Painted Turtle courtesy of Corey Wickliffe

Size

4 - 6 inches. Record - 7⅛ inches.

Appearance

The Midland Painted and the Eastern Painted are two subspecies of Painted Turtle. They share a similar appearance.

  • The smooth and flattened carapace is olive to black with a border of red crescents or bars.
  • The large scutes of the carapace are in nearly straight rows, with the light olive bands crossing the back and are good diagnostic features.
  • Two bright yellow spots are on either side of the head, which also has yellow stripes through the eyes and along the jawline.
  • The upper jaw has a central notch bordered by two tooth-like cusps (but see Red-bellied Turtle).
  • Photo of Eastern Painted Turtle courtesy of Corey Wickliffe
    Photo of Eastern Painted Turtle courtesy of Corey Wickliffe

    Habitats

    Slow-moving shallow water habitats with muddy bottoms and aquatic vegetation, including ponds, marshes, lakes, river pools and ditches. It can be found in both fresh and brackish water.

    How to Find

    The most conspicuous basking turtle we have, they can be active in any month, but typically observed basking April to September. Observe them through binoculars on fallen logs and debris along shorelines, typically in early morning, midday and early afternoon. Also, find them on land nesting in loose soil from late May to early July.

    Distribution in Maryland

    Painted turtles are found throughout Maryland. Eastern Painted Turtles will be found in the southern and eastern counties and may breed with Midland Painteds where they overlap in Central Maryland.

    Maryland Distribution Map for both Eastern Painted Turtle and Midland Painted Turtle

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    Maryland Amphibian
    and Reptile Atlas Project

    "A Joint Project of the Natural History Society of Maryland, Inc. and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources"

    For monthly newsletters of the Maryland Amphibian & Reptile Atlas Project click on Recent Newsletters and scroll down to the MARA Newsletters.

    The Maryland Herpetology Field Guide is a cooperative effort of the MD Natural Heritage Program and the MD Biological Stream Survey within the Department of Natural Resources and their partners. We wish to thank all who contributed field records, text, and photographs, as well as support throughout its development.