Commonly seen basking, the dark shell with light lines and markings on the head identify the painted turtle.

Common to almost any pond, lake or river, painted turtles are one of the most familiar turtles in Massachusetts. Often seen basking on logs or rocks just above the water's surface, their smooth black or dark olive carapace (4.5-6"), red markings along the sides where the carapace and plastron meet, and red and yellow stripes on the head and neck make identifying these turtles easy. Wide, light lines cross the carapace where the lead edges of the large scutes line up, further distinguishing the eastern painted turtle. The plastron has no markings and is pale yellow or cream colored. Males have long, thick tails and very long claws on the front feet. In the western part of Massachusetts, another subspecies of the painted turtle, the midland painted turtle, is found. It looks very much like the eastern painted turtle in coloration, but the large scutes on the carapace do not line up across the shell, and the broad light stripes do not exist.

Though not dependent upon vernal pools, painted turtles will sometimes be found during the spring and summer in these habitats. They perch above the water sunning themselves but flush easily upon approach. They are good at disappearing, and are often very difficult to catch once they have leapt into the water.

Eastern Painted Turtle

Common Species, NOT Endangered