My Turtles

 

This is the most exciting sign in the world to see! Well for me anyways 🙂 I got to go on an awesome trip, not to far away from where I live, to see painted turtles In their natural habitat! The picture above is one of the signs we saw on the way home.
So we went to this long lake with these people who study the turtles, (Also that are friends of my aunt) on their boat and we checked all the turtle traps. (they don’t kill them, they just trap them to record shell length and stuff like that, then they release them after a few minutes. They also check the traps every day so the turtles don’t starve). So we checked the first trap and it was empty, but the second one had a huge western painted turtle. I had never seen a turtle (other than sea turtles) that big. The people who studied turtles said that was pretty much as big as painted turtles get and that this one was very old. The red coloring on the plastron (bottom of shell) had for some reason worn off. Maybe because of age, but none of us knew.

I got to hold the turtle as he recorded the shell length, width, weight, and height of the turtle. She was a female. I knew, because of the short claws, and short, thin tail, and the size. I was very surprised at how calm the turtle was for the whole time. She was very relaxed and had her head and limbs out almost all the time. (Usually they retract into their shells when they feel threatened). After we were finished, I carefully set her in the water beside the boat, and without any panic she slowly swam away along the surface so we could watch. When she was ten feet away from the boat she popped her head up and looked back at us. Then quietly submerged.

This was an awesome experience for me!

Painted Turtles

 

Life Cycle

Painted Turtles start their life breaking through the shell of an egg with their “egg tooth”. An egg tooth is a small sharp nub on the turtle’s beak that is just used to break through the shell and eventually comes off. At this stage they are called hatchlings. The hatchlings (only about an inch in shell length) race as fast as they can towards the pond or lake water, still learning how to use their legs. Amazingly they are pretty good at it even though they were just born. Swimming also comes fairly naturally to them, but they get even better over time. The next stage is when they become juveniles. Now they are a bit bigger and are better at getting food and surviving. Painted turtles mature at ages anywhere from 5 to 12 years, depending on the gender of the turtle. They can be between five inches to twelve inches long. Once they are mature they will find a mate. The pregnant female turtles crawl up onto the beach of the lake or pond yearly and find a safe, easy place to dig a nest. She then lays up to twenty eggs and fills the hole with sand, gravel, or dirt. Painted turtles live over 20 years old, so they can lay many eggs in their lifetime. Once the egg hatches and new hatchlings pop out, the process repeats, again, again, and again.

Habitat and Distribution

Where do painted turtles feel at home? Well any sort of pond, lake or marsh is an ideal location for a painted turtle. A slow flowing river would do but they don’t enjoy fast moving water or rapids. They like a place with relatively shallow water and a log or rock poking out of the water to bask in the sun. They like to have a muddy bottom in their aquatic space with abundant plant growth.
Where can I find a painted turtle? In Canada you can find them only in very southern areas. (Just before the border to the United States) They are found in the “bottom” part of all southern Canadian provinces. In the U.S. you can find painted turtles in almost all the eastern states, a bunch of the central states and a few of the north-western states.

Identification

Well what does it look like? It may be hard to distinguish a painted turtle from most pond turtles from a first glance, but if you flip it over you will notice a bright red plastron (lower shell) with black markings. Or with different species of painted turtle, a more plain yellow plastron. The carapace (upper shell) of the painted turtle is a dark olive color. Also they have bright yellow markings on their neck, limbs and tail. There is also a thin red rim around the outer edge of the carapace, and some more yellow markings. These turtles have a rounder shell than other turtles like map turtles, which have pointed ridges on top.

Diet

A painted turtle’s diet consists mainly of vegetables and plant matter. They will also eat many other things including: crayfish, insects, worms, small fish and frogs. Since painted turtles have a wide range of foods to eat, it must make it easier to survive.

Difference in gender

Without special testing you cannot determine whether a painted turtle is male or female at a very young age. However, once they get older and more mature there are a few easy ways to tell what gender a painted turtle is. The first one is that males have fatter longer tails compared to females. Next is the cloacal opening on the female is very close to the tail base, and on a male it is closer to the tip of the tail.

Image Credit: WesternPaintedTurtle0655-web by Earth Sanctuary

Healthy Turtle

How do I know when my turtle is sick?

It is important to me and probably all turtle owners to know about the health of my/their turtle. Some things that may mean that your turtle is sick are clogged nostrils or blocked airways and fungus or diseases growing on the turtles shell. Other things could be: Major changes in the turtles behavior and not eating.

My turtle won’t eat!

This could mean a few things. One is that the turtle is not comfortable in it’s habitat (Especially when you first get it). Another is that you have previously been over-feeding the turtle.
Also the turtle could have a sickness so don’t completely ignore it. If it goes on for a long time, then you have to help it.
My turtle would not eat for a month or so but he is perfectly fine now. He seemed to be just not hungry. I think he was getting used to his new habitat.

How Do I Help My Turtle?

The best thing that you can do for your turtle is bring it to a vet. If there is one available in your area then you should take your turtle to a reptile specialist or someone who has a lot of knowledge on turtles. I have never had to take my turtles to the vet but I think that they give you medication for your turtle or if it is a shell fungus, something to rub on the shell.

Edited by: Max and Jordan

My Aquarium

IMG_6041Who new a glass box could be made so cool! I have a 55 gallon aquarium with two cute little turtles living in it. I have added stones for the bottom and a rock sculpture thing in the center. The fake plants make it very pond-like and are a great hiding spot for the turtles. Also, I have two live aquarium plants that the turtles can nibble on.

To keep it clean, I have three small filters. The filters also keep the water moving around. In the middle of the aquarium there is a heater to keep the water warm.

Shining through a screen with a wooden frame is a UVB light to keep the basking rock warm. On the other side is a black plastic top with a skylight to see in and a flap to open when I’m feeding the turtles.

P.S. My aquarium is four feet long. (In the picture it looks smaller).

Do you have an aquarium? Comment to tell me what’s in it.

Image by me

Edited by: Reid and Matthew