I’ve written about the Eastern Painted Turtle, however the photo for that post was lacking. And, admittingly, I think it actually was a Western Painted Turtle, as the Eastern are not supposed to be in my area. Although the painted turtle is found in most of the United States and some parts of Canada, there are four different species, and a lot of inter species mingling. As you can see, Illinois has either Western or Midland or a combo of both. Miss-identification can happen sometimes.. I’m a horticulturist, Jim! Not a herpetologist 😉
One of the more interesting things I learned about these turtles is that their sex is decided by what temperature the eggs are exposed to while in the clutch. These temperature-dependent turtles lack sex chromosomes, thus relying on the temperature to decide. Low temperatures during incubation produce males and high temperatures produce females. Think Jurassic Park!!
Since Painted turtles are cold-blooded, they need to bring their temperatures up when they want to be active. Basking in the sun is the best way to achieve this. Turtles of all varieties bask in large groups on logs, fallen trees, and any object that’s just above the water. Sunning also helps rid them of parasitic leeches. Ick.
Painted turtles feed mainly on plants, small fish, crustaceans, aquatic insects, and carrion. Young painted turtles are mainly carnivorous, possibly because they need the extra protein to grow, acquiring a taste for plants later in life. Turtles have no teeth, although they have tough, sharp plates for gripping food. Painted turtles like to eat in the water since their tongue does not move freely.
The painted turtle was designated the official Illinois state reptile in 2005 after winning the vote of the citizens of Illinois in 2004.