Where Do Painted Turtles Live?

Where do painted turtles live

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Painted turtles are beautiful and fascinating creatures. Judging by your decision to read this article I’m sure you’re curious about them. I’ve been owning painted turtles for years and still, they don’t stop fascinating me. So your curiosity is well understood.

This article is exactly for people such as yourself. Here, I’ll be discussing the location, nature and much more about where painted turtle’s live.

The painted turtle can be found all over the Americas. But they are mostly found in North America. They can also be found in parts of Canada, Mexico, Antarctica and various parts of the America in smaller quantities.


The painted turtle has 4 subspecies. The population of each species is different in different parts of the Americas. So to understand their habitat we must first learn about the 4 subspecies of the painted turtle:

  1. Western Painter Turtle: These are the largest of the subspecies. It can be identified by a lack of stripes on its top shell (The Carapace). These stripes are present in other species but missing or very faint in this one. Most distinctive is its bottom shell which contains vibrant colors and aggressive patterns.
  2. Eastern painted turtle: The differentiating characteristics of an Eastern Painted Turtle is that the scutes (plates of the top shell) of its shell are arranged in single rows. While for other species the scutes are more irregularly placed. The scutes are separated by yellowish lines. The plastron is light yellow. It sometimes has dark markings but usually none at all.
  3. Midland Painted Turtle: They are a bit hard to differentiate from Eastern Painted Turtles. But their misaligned scutes and dark markings on their plastron separate them from Eastern Painted Turtles.
  4. Southern Painted Turtles: The bright red stripe along their midline is the prime distinguishing feature of this species. The plastron of this turtle is also completely or near spotless.
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These species can interbreed. So some other species can be found with mixed physical characteristics.


Painted turtles are semi-aquatic animals. Which means they live their lives partly on water and partly on land. Different subspecies have different habitual preferences. But they all commonly prefer areas with clean water and plenty of sunlight.

The Western Painted Turtle lives in lakes, ponds, and streams. The Eastern Painted turtle is very fond of water and rarely leaves for ground. They only migrate when drought occurs and there’s no other choice. The Midland and Southern turtles like shores and coves. They like bodies of water with dense plant life.

Geographical location:

They are most widely distributed in North America. But species wise their location varies. Each subspecies of painted turtles have adapted to living in their respective areas all around the Americas. It is the only turtle whose habitat extends from Atlantic to Pacific.

Western Painted turtles:

In the United State of America, they can be found along Lake Michigan covering Wisconsin, Illinois and Upper Peninsula of Michigan. South Dakota and Nebraska are also within their range. In the Northwest, they cover Montana, north of Idaho, Washington state and Oregon. Southwest, they are found in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, and Arizona.

These turtles are distributed in the south of western Canada. In Ontario, they can be found north of Lake Superior. They can also be found south of Saskatchewan and in Alberta in small amounts. They are distributed throughout British Columbia.

Midland Painted Turtles:

They occupy south Ontario, Quebec, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Northwest Alabama, New York.

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Southern Painted Turtles:

They range within Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, Alabama, and Southeast Oklahoma.

Eastern Painted Turtle:

The eastern painted turtles are distributed throughout Canada, Georgia, and the Atlantic Ocean. They can range into the east in central Alabama.

Human Influence

There is no doubt that the habitat of Painted Turtles has been affected by human intervention. This includes the destruction of their habitat and pollution. But Painted Turtles reproduce aggressively and are quick to adapt to manmade disruptions. So their population is far from endangered.

Humans have also introduced a new range to their habitat. The releasing of pets have allowed them to colonize beyond their native geographical locations. Indonesia, Germany, Spain are some of the areas where they can be found due to human interaction.

Why these areas?

There are various reasons why these specific areas are where painted turtles are found the most.

Temperature: Temperature is very important for Painted Turtles. They are ectothermic, so they can’t produce their own heat. They require areas with adequate sunlight and air temperature to maintain proper growth and reproductive capabilities.

Water: They need adequate wetlands to survive.

Sunlight: They prefer areas where there is most sunlight all year round.

Vegetation: Areas with lots of plant life are preferred by Painted Turtles.

Looking closely, we can see all the areas where Painted Turtles are most habituated full fill these criteria’s more or less.

Captivity vs Wilderness

When it comes to long life and healthy living, captivity is actually better than wilderness for Painted Turtles.

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In the wild, these turtles have to be constantly on the move for food. And when it comes to sunlight they are at mercy of nature. So it’s not uncommon to find malnourished and defected turtles. They become unable to function properly and die or become hunted by predators.

But in captivity, they are getting enough food. Artificial sunlight is provided and they have a caretaker looking after them all the time. And on top of that, no predators.

This is why Painted turtle grows up healthier and faster in captivity.

What we’ve learned

So, we’ve talked about where Painted Turtles live, discussed the nature of their habitat and how human intervention has influenced their lives. After reading through the article, I think you understand that the lifestyle of painted turtles is very different from humans. It is necessary that you create an environment that compliments their natural habitat before you bring Painted Turtles indoors.

Proper heat and sunlight, clean water, adequate vegetation should be provided so that your turtle feels right at home. Artificial heating should also be considered as it controls the health and reproduction of Painted turtles.


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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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