Eastern painted turtle (Photo by Greg Schechter)
There are three subspecies of painted turtle in Canada: eastern, western and midland. The western painted turtle is further divided into three populations: Pacific coast, intermountain – Rocky Mountain and Prairie / western boreal – Canadian Shield.
What does the painted turtle look like?
The largest of the three is the western subspecies, which grow carapaces (upper shells) up to 25 centimetres in length. All painted turtles have a dark carapace with red markings on the edge of the shell and yellow stripes on the head and neck. The colour of the plastron (lower shell) varies from sold yellow to orange with a black pattern in the three subspecies.
What is the painted turtle's range and habitat?
Painted turtles can be found across southern Canada. They range from Nova Scotia to British Columbia.
Painted turtles can be found living in shallow waters of ponds, marshes, lakes or creeks with slow moving water with a soft bottom. They enjoy basking in the sun on floating logs and branches but also require dense vegetation to hide from predators. They spend little time on land, doing so only to nest, which typically occurs within 200 metres of water.
What is the painted turtle's conservation status?
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada assessed the eastern painted turtle, midland painted turtle and the western painted turtle intermountain – Rocky Mountain subspecies as special concern. The western painted turtle Pacific coast population was assessed as threatened, while the Prairie / western boreal – Canadian Shield populations is not considered to be at risk. The main threats painted turtles face are wetland habitat loss and degradation from development and road mortality.
In New Brunswick, the Nature Conservancy of Canada is protecting habitat for painted turtles and minimizing disturbances through stewardship activities.