Chrysemys picta-the Painted Turtle

Chrysemys picta picta, See the white "ear" spots? 22 point, cotton.

Chrysemys picta picta, See the white “ear” spots? 22 point, cotton.

I counted 32 Chrysemys picta picta in our two acre pond last week. They seemed to be the boldest of the basking turtles in our pond, so let me get pretty close  I was able to sit and knit for an hour about 15 ft from a log full of them. Although they dove off when I first approached, they climbed back on and got back to the serious business of sitting on a log. Also there seemed to be a fair number of courting pairs swimming about, with a big head in the front and a smaller head following VERY closely.

Stitching turtle carapaces requires lots of shading, if you want something that looks complex, due to pond turtle propensity to being damp and covered in slime. Eyes can also be effectively made from a single stitch if the single stitch is surrounded with backstitching and then a line of backstitching is run through it.

Chrysemys picta. © 2011 Greg Schechter. (

Chrysemys picta showing his splotches nicely. © 2011 Greg Schechter. (

And here are the basics of Eastern Painted Turtles:

1. They are the most common basking turtles around here.

2. They are easy to ID. Painted turtles have  a white splotch “ears” and red splotches marginally (on the sides between the top and bottom shells). The local subspecies (C. picta picta-the eastern painted turtle) has brightly colored sutures latitudinally between the front scutes. Looks like a pair of yellow stripes running between the armpits. And there are red stripes on the neck and yellow stripes on the head. Look for the white “ears” and the red marginal splotches.

3. They get to be about a foot to a foot and a half long. So they’re pretty good sized. Girls are bigger than boys by a third or so.

4. They can survive polluted water pretty well.

5. They can live into their sixties and are adults at about two. Hence most turtles being adults.

6. They eat pretty much everything, although prefer protein when young and plant matter when older.

7. They were popular in the pet trade at one point, resulting in random populations released throughout the world. Getting a pet turtle is serious business.


“Painted Turtle” Encyclopedia of life, available from Accessed April 7, 2014.

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