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Montana Animal Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Painted Turtle - Chrysemys picta

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Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S4

Agency Status
USFWS:
USFS:
BLM:
FWP Conservation Tier: 3


 

External Links





 
General Description
The upper shell is olive to black, with the edges of shields (plates making up the shell) bordered with yellow. The head, neck, and legs are marked with yellow lines, and a red spot appears behind the eye. The lower shell is brightly colored with red and yellow. Females may reach 9 inches in upper shell length, but males seldom reach 7 inches. Males have much longer front claws than females, and the vent is situated farther from the edge of the shell.

Species Range
Montana Range

Click the legend blocks above to view individual ranges.

Western Hemisphere Range

 


Summary of Observations Submitted for Montana
Number of Observations: 1898

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density

Recency

 

(Records associated with a range of dates are excluded from time charts)



Habitat
Painted Turtles are found in lakes, ponds, reservoirs, and sloughs that contain some shallow water areas and a soft bottom; also river backwaters and oxbows with little current. They often use logs and rocks for basking. Painted Turtles hibernate in bottom mud from early October to mid- or late April. They reproduce at 4 to 8 years of age, depending on climate (later in northern latitudes). Six to 20 leathery eggs are laid in nests excavated in gravel or sand. Food items include aquatic vegetation, frogs, tadpoles, small fish, and a variety of invertebrates. Found in wide variety of waterbodies, including glacial lakes (Franz 1971); but not found in oligotropic mountain lakes above 3363 ft. in Mission Mountains (Brunson and Demaree 1951). Nest on south-facing grassy slopes in southern Canada (MacCracken et al. 1983).

Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
  • Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
    How Associations Were Made
    We associated the use and habitat quality (high, medium, or low) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
    1. Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2001, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
    2. Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species’ range and habitat requirements;
    3. Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point database associated with each ecological system;
    4. Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of “observations versus availability of habitat”.
    Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.  In general, species were associated as using an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.  However, species were not associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if point observations were associated with that system.  High, medium, and low habitat quality was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species in the literature.  The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignments of habitat quality.  If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact Bryce Maxell at bmaxell@mt.gov or (406) 444-3655.

    Suggested Uses and Limitations
    Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.  These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: http://mtnhp.org/requests/default.asp) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.  Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.  Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.  Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).  Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species’ known geographic range.

    Literature Cited
    • Adams, R.A.  2003.  Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation.  Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.  289 p.
    • Dobkin, D. S.  1992.  Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34.  Missoula, MT.
    • Foresman, K.R.  2001.  The wild mammals of Montana.  Special Publication No. 12.  Lawrence, KS: The American Society of Mammalogists.  278 p.
    • Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998.  Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates.  Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT.  1302 p.
    • Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young.  1999.  Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32.  72 p.
    • Maxell, B.A.  2000.  Management of Montana’s amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species.  Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1.  Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana.  161 p.
    • Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath.  2004.  Amphibians and reptiles of Montana.  Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.

Food Habits
Ease of capture and size are major influences on what prey is taken. In southern Saskatchewan, Painted Turtles preferred animal food (over 87% by volume) over abundant vegetation. Decapoda greatly preferred, then amphipod, gastropod, insect larvae. Plant material was a significant food item (21 to 61%) in some Painted Turtles that had stopped growing. Food quality (animal vs. plant) and quantity may influence reproductive potential (MacCracken et al. 1983).

Ecology
In southwest Canada: density 11.1/ha. Hatchling survival 19.7 (0 to 52%). A 1995 mortality study (Fowle 1996) reported most DOR Painted Turtles occurring from late May to mid July and consisting of 43% adult males, 26% adult females, and 31% of unknown sex, including juveniles. Densities of adult Painted Turtles were positively correlated with pond distance from the highway, and proportionally more juveniles and fewer adults were found at ponds closest to the highway, implying that roadkill mortality may be killing proportionally more adults (Fowle 1996).

Reproductive Characteristics
A 1995 Mission Valley, MT, study (Fowle 1996) reported gravid females ranging from 7 to 17 in age, with smallest gravid female plastron lengths/widths of 166 and 82 mm for 11- and 9-year olds, respectively. The youngest males with secondary sex characteristics were 2 years old, with minimum plastron lengths/widths of 33 and 49 mm for 4- and 3-year olds, respectively (Fowle 1996). Males sexually mature at plastron length 100 mm (4 to 5 years); females at 140 to 150 mm (5 to 6 years). Clutch size is 20 (in southern Canada) to 10 (in Wisconsin and Minnesota) (Christiansen and Moll 1973). In Wisconsin, 50% of females laid two clutches and nested from June to mid-July. Eggs may overwinter (Ernst 1972).

References
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View WorldCat Record   View Online Publication
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    • [DCC] Decker Coal Company. 1998. 1997 Consolidated annual progress report. Decker Coal Company West, North and East Pits. Decker, MT.
    • [EI] Econ Incorporated. 1984. Terrestrial wildlife inventory for the Lame Jones and Ismay coal lease tracts. Econ Incorporated. Helena, MT.
    • [NDTI] Northrop, Devine, and Tarbell Incorporated. 1994. Cabinet Gorge and Noxon Rapids hydroelectric developments 1993 wildlife study. Northrop, Devine, and Tarbell Incorporated, Portland, ME. 197 p.
    • [OEA] Olson Elliot and Associates Research. 1985. 1983-1984 Wildlife monitoring report for the CX Ranch project. Olson Elliot and Associates Research. Helena, MT.
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    • [PRESI] Powder River Eagle Studies Incorporated. 1998b. Spring Creek Mine 1997 wildlife monitoring studies. Powder River Eagle Studies Incorporated. Gillete, WY.
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