Common Reptile and Amphibian Species of Northwestern Ontario





Chrysemys picta bellii
Western Painted Turtle


Distinguishing Features - Shell, dark with a network of thin, faded yellow stripes; each marginal marked with two dark rectangles outlined in orange-red, the pattern wraps under the marginals, but the predominating surrounding color is red. Underside, usually red or orange-red on the sides with bold pattern of black and pale yellow, although some specimens may possess a patternless underside. Overall colouration of the skin is black with bright yellow stripes on the head, limbs, and tail, sometimes with red centers, yellow stripes on the head are wide and reach the eyes and the snout. The upper jaw has a notch located just under the nostrils. Males have very long front claws and longer, thicker tails with a cloacal opening that extends past the edge of the carapace. Females have shorter front claws, shorter, thinner tails and their cloacal openings do not extend past the edge of the carapace. Females grow larger in adulthood than males.

Western Painted Turtle Size -
9 - 18 cm (3.5 - 7 in)


Found primarily in western areas of Northwestern Ontario, from Dryden to Kenora, and around Thunder Bay. Highly adaptable in habitat usage; nearly any permanent body of water with suitable basking sites are inhabited by these colorful turtles; prefer muddy bottoms and may be seen in rivers, lakes, ponds and marshes.


Breeding occurs in the late part of May. The females are ready to lay their eggs in June and can be observed seeking out their nesting sites which may vary considerably in distance from their aquatic home. The site is usually an area of loose sand or soil that gets plenty of sunshine. The female deposits about 7 or 8 eggs, fills the enclosure in, and makes her way back to her home. Young turtles hatch in late August, but the young may overwinter inside the nests and emerge the following spring. They will be ready to reproduce at about four to six years of age.


Western painted turtles are omnivorous. Because they have a fixed tongue, they can not swallow on land; their food must be obtained and eaten in the water. The diet consists of fishes, aquatic insects, tadpoles, frogs, crayfish and snails. They also consume carrion and will browse on different forms of aquatic vegetation. The herbivorous portion of their diet is acquired with age; the young are mostly carnivorous.

The species are one of the last reptiles to enter their winter sleep, retiring into hibernation mid- to late October. Adults overwinter at the muddy bottom of a lake or pond.

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