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Western Painted Turtle

Chrysemys picta bellii

  • Family: Emydidae
  • Adult Size: The western painted turtle is the largest of the four subspecies and attains a carapace length of up to 7 inches.
  • Range: The western painted turtle is found in the mid-western states of Oklahoma northward to the Dakotas and extends as far as Saskatchewan, Canada. It reaches the eastern portion of its range in upper Michigan and Ontario where it intergrades with other races of painted turtles. It is found in the Rio Grande of New Mexico. It does occur on the west coast in Washington and British Columbia, although its arrival there may represent recent introductions.
  • Habitat: The western painted turtle is rather adaptable and is known to occur in prairie pothole wetlands as well as river floodplains and oxbows.
  • Captive Lifespan: More than 20 Years
  • Dangerous:
  • Care Level: Beginner


Western painted turtles, like their eastern counterparts, are fond of basking and require a platform or sloping log where they can get their entire bodies out of the water. A basking light that provides a temperature of approximately 80 degrees Fahrenheit will be needed. Plastic grating or egg crate material provides a good basking platform, as the plastic will not be abrasive to the turtle’s plastron, and the grating will allow the plastron to dry, reducing the chances of shell fungus and rot.

Western painted turtles are omnivorous and will eat aquatic plants and animal matter. Aquatic insect larvae, earthworms, crickets and chopped fish are readily consumed. They must swallow their food underwater. Turtle pellets are readily consumed in captivity. Western painted turtles have been observed feeding on dead carp in a drying New Mexico floodplain wetland.

Filtered water in an aquarium setting will help keep the western painted turtles healthy.

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