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Discover Nature: Western Painted Turtle

Missouri Department of Conservation

If you’ve ever spent any time floating a quiet Missouri stream, or exploring edges of lakes, ponds, or ditches, you’ve likely encountered the western painted turtle (Chrysemys picta bellii).

This week on Discover Nature, watch for this small, brightly colored, semi-aquatic turtle.  Western painted turtles have a generally olive, brown, or black upper shell, three-to-seven inches long, usually with irregular yellow lines and a reddish-orange outer edge. The head and legs may be dark brown or black, but are strongly patterned with yellow lines.

Turtles have good color vision, and these unique color patterns likely help them recognize members of their own species.

Usually active in Missouri from late March until October, western painted turtles mate in shallow water from April to June.

They spend much time basking on logs in slow moving rivers or ponds with ample mud at the bottom, and abundant aquatic vegetation, where they feed on aquatic plants, snails, crayfish, insects, and some fish.

Learn more about western painted turtles, including where to find them, and how to distinguish them from similar species in our state, with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s online field guide.

Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.


Trevor serves as KBIA’s weekday morning host for classical music. He has been involved with local radio since 1990, when he began volunteering as a music and news programmer at KOPN, Columbia's community radio station. Before joining KBIA, Trevor studied social work at Mizzou and earned a masters degree in geography at the University of Alabama. He has worked in community development and in urban and bicycle/pedestrian planning, and recently served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia with his wife, Lisa Groshong. An avid bicycle commuter and jazz fan, Trevor has cycled as far as Colorado and pawed through record bins in three continents.
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