Description: The Southern Painted Turtle is a small to medium sized colorful turtle. The average carapace length is 5-10 inches (10-25 cm). Their shells are long and smooth along the edges. They are dark green to black above, with faint yellow or orange colored seams between the scutes. Some may have reddish markings along the marginal scutes that extend up from the plastron (underside of the shell). The center of the plastron is usually yellow or red and can be unpatterened or have some dark blotching. The head is dark with yellow stripes and sometimes large yellow blotches. The legs and neck are also dark with yellow or reddish stripes.
Natural History: This is one of the most widespread turtles in North America and they are often the most commonly observed turtle in fresh water ponds, lakes, and slow moving streams and rivers. They bask along the banks and on fallen logs throughout the year. They have an omnivorous and opportunistic diet and eat aquatic vegetation, crayfish, snails, other invertebrates, small amphibians, fish, and carrion.
Mating occurs in the spring and this is when these turtles are most frequently encountered moving across land. Males will travel to other wetlands in search of mates and in early summer females will travel away from wetlands to lay eggs. Eggs will hatch in the fall, but young may not emerge until the following spring.
Similar Species: This species is distinguished from all similar species by having a smooth shell and reddish patterning on the legs.
Distribution: This turtle is found throughout the eastern and midwestern United States except in Florida. Their range continues into the Northwestern United States. In the southeast, this turtle is most commonly found in the mountains and the piedmont.
Notes: There are several subspecies of the Painted Turtle across its range. In South Carolina the Eastern Painted Turtle (C. p. picta) is the most common and distinguishable by large yellow blotches on the head just behind the eyes.
Contributed by Jake Zadik (01/01/2020)
Click here to view South Carolina county records of this species on Herpmapper.org