Western Painted Turtle Facts, Size, Lifespan and Pets


Painted turtles are aquatic small brightly marked turtles that commonly have their habitat in and around the water bodies. How can you distinguish the western painted turtle from other turtles?

Western painted turtle pictures

Western painted turtle

Painted turtles have four different subspecies that are geographically located and originated from North America.  They include Eastern, Western, Midland and Southern painted turtles.

Today, we are going to be very specific on the western painted turtles scientifically known as Chrysemys picta bellii.


On how they look like, “the Western Painted Turtle is named after the bright yellow stripes on its head, neck, tail, and legs, and the glowing red on its plastron (shell covering the belly) and under-edge of its carapace (shell covering the back),” explains bcreptiles.ca

Many times, their carapace has a light-yellow pattern or worm looking markings. The yellow and red outlines usually create a distinction with their olive green, and the dark coloring of the shell covering the upper back.

Note that “Some individuals may also have a well-developed red or yellow stripe running along the center of the carapace,” says Arkive.org

Usually, Chrysemys picta bellii confuses people with the red-eared slider, which is the most common distributed turtle. However, it has a relatively flat, smooth upper shell as compared with the red-eared slider. Also, they do not have red markings on the neck or head like in the red-eared sliders.

They have webbed hind feet and slender claws on their front feet. The claws are longer in males than in females. These reptiles are lighter than other types of turtles in this species.

Size and Lifespan of the western painted turtle

They grow a carapace size of 12 inches.  Females reach an average size of one foot and they will grow to be larger than the males.

When afforded maximum care and proper diet, they can live up to 30 years. However, a few have lived beyond 40 years.


These reptiles are commonly found in Western North America, including Western Canada and Northern Mexico. In British Columbia, they are found in the southwestern part and in the Rocky Mountain in the South interior of British Columbia.

In southern Vancouver Island, they will be is found in Elk-Beaver Lake, Swan Lake, and Matheson Lake.

You will also find them basking on logs in the water, while others may come out of the water to bask in the sun.

These turtles require wetland habitats which are appropriate for rummaging and hibernation. They also need warm sites on land for laying eggs. Finding egg-laying spots is a major challenge for this species and other aquatic counterparts.

Therefore, you will find them in the margins and shallows of lakes and ponds, ditches and lethargic streams with murky bottoms and lots of aquatic plants.


The breeding term of the Chrysemys picta bellii begins from late spring to early summer. These are amniotes that need females to nest on land.

The courtship here is relatively short ranging from 5 and 15 minutes. It commences by many males chasing a single mature female. The first male to reach her convinces her and once she accepts, they will sink to the bottom of the water.

Interestingly, the painted turtle females usually don’t wait for males to initiate mating- they will pursue their male of choice!

The females usually like soft, sandy soil with good disclosure to the sun for their nesting area. The females dig a nest with their hind feet usually near a water source. Habitually, the males will urinate to soften the soil. The nest is dug between 10 and 12 cm deeper. Afterward, they will lay 6 to 15 eggs in the nests.

Once the eggs are laid, the females will cover them will soil, vegetables and debris to hide them from predators.

“If predators do not find the nest, the hatchlings break out of their eggs around September.  Even though their shallow nests can reach –5 degrees C, most hatchlings stay in the nest until the following spring.  Survival is quite low due to freezing and predation of both eggs and hatchlings,” explains bcreptiles.ca


Did you know that the sex of the painted turtle is determined by incubation temperature during development? Well, that is it. These reptiles lack sex chromosomes that decide gender. Low temperatures during incubation will produce males while higher temperatures will produce females.

Hatching thus has two divide temperatures, 27 to 32 degrees Celsius and 22 degrees Celsius.


These reptiles must protect themselves and their eggs from predators. Usually, otters, foxes, raccoons, minks and other medium-sized animals will prey on them and their eggs. To escape the trap of predators, they usually seek refuge in the water. They can also retract their head and legs into their hard shell.

Many times, you will also find them basking in groups on logs, fallen trees among other objects in water or near water bodies. They also get rid of parasites when they expose themselves to the sun.

They usually hibernate during winters by burrowing into the muds.

Western painted turtle food

These are omnivore reptiles that feed predominantly on plants and animals such as fish, crustaceans, earthworms, snails, frogs, tadpoles, algae, aquatic insects and dead animal matter (carrion).

Often, they use their horny bridges that are sharp and serrated in eating the various foods we have mentioned since they do not have teeth.

In northern climates, these reptiles eat more protein than their colleagues in southern climates to help them grow more quickly and get more energy and resources to endure the cold winters.

These turtles love to feed in water because they seem to have difficulty swallowing dry foods.

Are They Endangered?

Today, these turtles are facing several threats. They are threatened by shoreline developments, exhaustive recreational use, road death, and predators preying on them and their eggs.

Again, they require freshwater habitats.  However, this has been threatened by the increasing urban development. According to hat.ba.ca, “already southern Vancouver Island has lost more than 80% of its wetlands; a habitat that is critical to Western Painted Turtles and many other species.”

Western Painted Turtle Pet

The Chrysemys picta bellii can make a good pet, thanks to their bright color patterns. However, before you make them hour pet, you must go through your state wildlife rules and regulations. Some countries don’t allow turtles to be kept as a pet.

Again, it is not advisable to take that those you found in the wild and make it a pet straight away. Usually, they would starve to death in captivity.

If you want them, they are available in many pet stores, so just take some time to find good pet stores.

It is not advisable to get a baby turtle for sale from a street vendor. Go to stores where professionals hatch the baby turtles and keep their records.

They will provide or help you gather knowledge about the best western painted turtle care considering the habitat, diet, safety, and security, etc.

If you’re a newbie in the world of keeping pets, make sure you ask the professionals questions about the proper care of the western painted turtle, otherwise, they are very sensitive and would not survive the conditions you will provide at home if they do not resemble their natural habitats.

Further readings