This website will be removed on December 31st, 2017.
If you are the site owner, please visit the Server Decommissioning page for more details.


Four species of turtles inhabit North Dakota. Of these, two are relatively common throughout the state. These are the Western painted turtle and the common snapping turtle. The other two turtles are less known and very secretive in their habits. They are the smooth softshell turtle and the false map turtle. Both of these turtles are found in the Missouri River, specifically in the Oahe reservoir.

Western Painted Turtle

Western Painted Turtle

(Chrysemys picta belli)

Photo by Dave Angell

Painted turtles are the most wide-spread turtles in the United States. The undersides or plastrons of the painted turtle are what give these turtles their name. They are very brightly colored with a large black patch mottled with yellow on a red background. The backs or carapaces of painted turtles vary from black, to greenish or brown, and may contain a few light yellow lines on each plate. Distinctive yellow stripes adorn the head and neck. They are easily recognized while basking in the sun on rocks, stumps, or trees half submerged in water. They are very cautious and dive into the water when threatened.

Their diet includes worms, minnows, and aquatic insects.

Painted turtles mate in the spring and fall. In June or early July females dig nests in the soil with their hind legs, in which they lay 5-15 eggs. The eggs hatch in about 10 weeks.

More Turtles

Return to Introduction

All Rights Reserved
Terms and Conditions
Last modified Sept. 27, 1995