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10 Turtles Found in Michigan (with Pictures)

Hallie Roddy

With over 26,000 bodies of water in Michigan, it’s no wonder why there are so many turtles roaming around. You see them swimming around ponds, lakes, and rivers but they could be almost anywhere if look closely enough. There are 10 turtle species that are native to Michigan. Some species have too many turtles to count, and others are threatened species that are a rare sight. If you’ve been curious about the types of turtles you can find in Michigan, here is a list of every species that thrives in this northern state:

divider-turtle10 Turtles Found in Michigan

1. Blanding Turtle

blanding's turtle
Image Credit: Pixabay
Species: Emydoidea blandingii
Longevity: 5–8 years
Good to own as a pet?: Yes
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 5–8 inches
Diet: Omnivorous

The Blanding turtle was named after the naturalist, William Blanding. They have dark, oval-shaped shells that are covered with specks of yellow. Blanding turtle populations are becoming a concern in Michigan. Their numbers have dropped across the state near their preferred marshy environments. These turtles are omnivores and spend the day swimming in water and hunting earthworms, crayfish, and invertebrates. They also eat plants, even though meat is their top choice. Unlike other turtles that require water to help them swallow their food, the Blanding turtle doesn’t rely on it at all.


2. Map Turtle

Mississippi map turtle
Image Credit: Ken Schulze, Shutterstock
Species: Graptemys geographics
Longevity: 15–20 years
Good to own as a pet?: Yes
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 4–10.5 inches
Diet:  Omnivorous

Map turtles are very common around Michigan lakes. They have dark brown and olive-green shells, but their most distinctive feature is their unique yellow markings that look similar to the contours you see on a map. This turtle species is mainly aquatic and always near some type of water. Because of this, they are excellent swimmers and, although technically omnivorous, they try to stick to a carnivorous diet of fish and crayfish.


3. Musk Turtle

razorback musk turtle_Ryan M. Bolton_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Ryan M. Bolton, Shutterstock
Species: Sternotherus odoratus
Longevity: 50+ years
Good to own as a pet?: Yes
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 4–5 inches
Diet:  Omnivorous

The Musk turtle, also called the Eastern Musk or Stinkpot, give off a strong odor that their release from their musk glands to protect themselves from predators like fox, racoons, birds, and skunks. These are a smaller turtle species that only gets 5 inches long, but they are fairly common, and many people keep them as pets despite their unpleasant smell. Musk turtles have dark shells without identifiable markings. Their heads are also dark, but there are light yellow lines found on their faces. Musk turtles hunt for their pray by scent and usually feast on small fish, tad poles, and mollusks. They aren’t strong swimmers, so they prefer to go for easier prey or plants.


4. Snapping Turtle

Snapping Turtle
Image credit: Sista Vonjintanaruks, Shutterstock
Species: Chelydra serpentina
Longevity: 30–50 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 8–20 inches
Diet:  Omnivorous

You’d be amazed at how large a common snapping turtle is able to grow. These aggressive turtles have powerful hooked mouths that resemble beaks and snap closed on anyone or anything that comes too close. Their beaks aren’t the only strong parts of them. They are also known for their powerful claws and ridged tails. Snapping turtles are omnivores, that mainly eat underwater vegetation and fish. However, some larger turtles have been known to eat birds that linger too close.


5. Eastern Box Turtle

esatern box turtle_Piqsels
Image Credit: Piqsels
Species: Terrapene Carolina
Longevity: 40 years
Good to own as a pet?: Yes
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 4–7 inches
Diet:  Omnivorous

Box turtle are another highly common turtle species in Michigan that reside in almost all areas. They are known for their colorful shells that are mainly dark brown with flashes of yellow and orange markings. These are one of the few types that are able to regenerate their shells when damaged. Box turtles are terrestrial animals that roam up to 50 meters every day to look for food to eat. Box turtles prefer woodlands, but they wonder into marshy or grassland areas near streams and ponds as well.


6. Painted Turtle

eastern box turtle_micahzeb, Pixabay
Image Credit: micahzeb, Pixabay
Species: Chrysemys picta
Longevity: 30–50 years
Good to own as a pet?: Yes
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 4–10 inches
Diet:  Omnivorous

Michigan Paint turtles are one of the easiest to identify. They have dark brown and olive-green shells with bright yellow and orange colors on their face and sides. The two types of painted turtles in Michigan are the Midland Painted and Western Painted. These are both excellent options to keep as pets. They are mainly aquatic and must be in the water in order to swallow food like mollusks and frogs.


7. Red-eared Slider

red-eared slider turtle
Image Credit: Flyri, Pixabay
Species: Trachemys scripta elegans
Longevity: 20–40 years
Good to own as a pet?: Yes
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 6–8 inches
Diet:  Omnivorous

The top turtle in the pet market is the Red-eared Slider. This species is semi-aquatic, and they usually bask themselves along the edge of warm and slow-moving waters. They stick to a diet of underwater vegetation and fish. Red-eared Slider turtles get their name from the red patch located just behind their eyes.


8. Spiny Softshell Turtle

Species: Apalone spinifera
Longevity: 20–50 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 5–17 inches
Diet:  Carnivorous

These turtles look more like a pancake with dark circles all over their backs. The Spiny Softshell turtle feels like sandpaper when you touch it. They aren’t great as pets because they are aggressive and known to scratch and bite when handles. Their most distinguishing feature, however, is their long, tube-like beak. These are mostly found along the western shores of Michigan where there is plenty of sand to burrow into and sleep. These are one of the few carnivorous turtle species that eats mainly mollusks, crustaceans, and invertebrates.


9. Spotted Turtle

Spotted Turtle_ Jay Ondreicka_Shutterstock
Image credit: Jay Ondreicka, Shutterstock
Species: Clemmys guttata
Longevity: 25–50 years
Good to own as a pet?: Yes
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 4–5 inches
Diet:  Omnivorous

One of the smaller Michigan turtle species is the Spotted turtle. These turtles have smooth shells with bright yellow dots on them. As semi-aquatic animals, the Spotted turtle prefers to hang around shallow waters near marshy and boggy habitats. They are also a wonderful choice for pets.


10. Wood Turtles

Species: Glyptemys insculpta
Longevity: 40–60 years
Good to own as a pet?: Yes
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 5–8 inches
Diet:  Omnivorous

Wood turtles are a very intelligent turtle species, but their numbers a rapidly declining in Michigan. The main habitat of a wood turtle is around ponds and woodlands. They usually are active during the day while they roam for food like berries, plants, and worms. These turtles have a unique ability to create vibrations in the soil and trick worms into thinking it’s raining and rising to the surface. Their shells are rough and feel almost like they are made of wood.

divider-turtleConclusion

With so many different bodies of water, Michigan is like a turtle oasis where there is a perfect habitat for freshwater turtles of all kinds. While we only focused on the turtles that are native to Michigan, there are many others that thrive here and have turned this watery state into their permanent homes.


Featured Image Credit: Brian A Wolf, Shutterstock

Hallie Roddy

Hallie has been a proud nature and animal enthusiast for as long as she can remember. She attributes her passion for the environment and all its creatures to her childhood when she was showing horses on weekends and spending her weeknights devoting her attention to her pets. She enjoys spending most of her time in Michigan playing with her two rescue cats, Chewbacca and Lena, and her dog, Clayton. When Hallie isn’t using her degree in English with a writing specialization to spread informative knowledge on pet care, you can find her snuggled up on the couch reading books or watching nature documentaries.