Turtles in Michigan

Turtles in Michigan – 10 Species That are Found Here

Michigan is home to 10 native turtles. These include snapping turtle, spiny softshell, common map turtle, painted turtle, red-eared slider, spotted turtle, wood turtle, common musk turtle, and Blanding’s turtle.

The state of Michigan boasts 41.5% water coverage of its total area. It has a whopping 60,000 inland lakes and ponds—making it the ideal habitat for various species of turtles.

Some of the turtles in the state are common while others are under special protection or rare.

The following article discusses the 10 native turtles of Michigan and the unique attributes of each of them. These include physical appearance, average adult size, lifespan, habitat, diet, and conservation status.

10 Types Of Turtles In Michigan

Contents

1. Common Snapping Turtle

 Common Snapping Turtle in Michigan
  • Scientific name: Chelydra serpentina
  • Common name: Snapping Turtle
  • Family: Chelydridae
  • Size: 8 to 18 1/2 inches
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years or more
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

Common snapping turtles are widespread throughout Michigan. An average adult is pretty large and has a shell length of 18½ inches long.

This species has a chunky head, a long tail, and large webbed feet. The shell color is black or olive and has no distinct pattern. These Michigan snapping turtles are known for their powerful jaws—they’re so strong that these turtles eat other turtles!

You’ll find them in waterbodies with muddy bottoms. Examples include marshes, ponds, lakes, rivers, and even shallow streams. They generally prefer waters with aquatic vegetation in plenty and foods such as fish, frogs, birds, etc.

These Michigan turtles generally show docile behavior but can get quite aggressive if taken out of water. The best way to calm it is to take it back to the waters, where it feels safe.

2. Spiny Softshell Turtle

 Spiny Softshell Turtle in Michigan
  • Scientific name: Apalone spinifera
  • Common name: Spiny Softshell Turtle
  • Family: Trionychidae
  • Size: 5 to 9 inches (males), 12 to 20 inches (females)
  • Lifespan: 30 to 70 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The Eastern Spiny softshell turtle is a medium-to-large freshwater species that lives in Michigan’s lakes, streams, and rivers with muddy or sandy bottoms and little or no vegetation.

Female spiny softshell turtles are usually larger than males. And unlike other turtles, this species has a flexible, leather-like carapace that’s extremely rounded and flattened. The shell color can be olive grey or yellow-brown. Just like other softshell turtles, this species also has a snorkel-like snout.

The young ones feature well-defined round spots that are easily visible on the shell (though these spots become invisible as they transition to adulthood).

Spiny softshell turtles in Michigan tend to eat anything they find in the waters including crayfish, insects, small fish, and so on. They hunt by burying themselves in the mud or sand while keeping their head uncovered to grab food as it swims by.

These turtles are also able to breathe underwater by taking in oxygen through their throat skin. This is a useful adaptation given that they don’t spend a lot of time out of water.

Other adaptations of these turtles include webbed feed, long claws, and extremely flat shells that enable them to quickly swim away from predators and burry in the muddy bottom of the waters they reside in.

3. Common Musk Turtle

 Common Musk Turtle in Michigan
  • Scientific name: Sternotherus odoratus
  • Common name: Common Musk Turtle, Eastern Musk Turtle, Musk Turtle, Stinkpot
  • Family: Kinosternidae
  • Size: 2 to 4.5 inches
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The Common Musk Turtle is another aquatic turtle found in Michigan’s slow-moving and sluggish streams as well as still water bodies. The turtle usually prefers areas with dark crevices, where it can easily hide. It also prefers lots of plant matter to burrow in and hide.

An average adult eastern musk turtle is quite small (2 to 4.5 inches long). It has a pretty plain appearance with highly consistent colors. Both the shell and skin usually share the same color and can range from dark brown to black.

The turtle shell has one unique feature—a ridge traversing its entire shell length. Besides, it has another distinctive feature: two light-colored stripes on its head.

Common musk turtles of Michigan are herbivorous and will eat small aquatic or semi-aquatic animals, carrion, and aquatic vegetation. They will also feed on any other vegetation on land.

When it feels threatened, this turtle species emits a foul odor (a musky odor, hence its name). This scent can be detected in water or on land. It can also easily waft through the air to its predators.

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Also, these Michigan turtles are good at climbing trees! This great capability enables them to go high up tree branches to find a safe resting place and avoid predators.

4. Common Map Turtle

 Common Musk Turtle in Michigan
  • Scientific name: Graptemys geographica
  • Common name: Common Map Turtle, Northern Map Turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 3 to 10 inches
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The common map turtle has also been observed in Michigan. To be more specie, this freshwater turtle resides in the rivers and lakes of Michigan.

They prefer living in large waterbodies with debris. These offer the perfect spots for basking while the water bodies enable them to spend their hibernation periods in winter completely submerged.

Like other map turtles, this common map turtle gets its name from the map-like pattern on its shell. Its shell is typically darker and ranges from brown to black. The map pattern has a lighter coloration.

The common map turtle of Michigan is mainly carnivorous and feeds on mollusks such as clams and snails. It will also eat crayfish and insects. And when animal matter gets scarce, it will feed on plant matter.

Note that it may be difficult to spot a common map turtle in the wild in Michigan. Although active during the day, these turtles are quite timid and will quickly retreat to the waters at the slightest disturbance.

5. Painted Turtle

 Painted Turtle in Michigan
  • Scientific name: Chrysemys picta
  • Common name: Painted Turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 4 to 6 inches
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The painted turtle is one of the most recognizable turtle species in Michigan, thanks to its beautiful and unique coloring. The bright reds and yellow-green markings on its shell, head, and limbs are no doubt a beauty to behold!

This painted turtle sub-species in Michigan has been observed to live near water bodies with minimal movements. Examples include marshes, ponds, slow-moving streams with sandy/muddy bottoms, small lakes, etc.

They also prefer areas with aquatic plants in plenty as they make their primary food source in the wild.

One interesting fact about these Michigan turtles is their ability to hold their breath for up to 30 hours when inside temperate water. Moreover, they’re capable of standing dominant in freezing cold waters for up to 4 months.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to establish the population of these turtles in Michigan. This is because most people who pet them end up releasing them back into the wild. This contributes to an ever-expanding range plus unstable reproduction rates for these turtles.

Also read: Turtles in Texas

6. Red-eared Slider

 Red-eared Slider in Michigan
  • Scientific name: Trachemys scripta
  • Common name: Red-eared Slider, Red-eared Terrapin
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 7 to 11 inches
  • Lifespan: 30 to 40 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The red-eared slider is a sub-species of pond sliders and a native species of Michigan. It is a semi-aquatic turtle and prefers living in marshes, ponds, lakes, and creeks.

A red-eared slider gets its name from the small red stripe surrounding its ears (or behind the eye), and its ability to quickly slide off logs and rocks into the water.

Generally, the skin and shell coloration of this slider can be brown or black, with yellow stripes covering the skin.

The red-eared sliders of Michigan are pretty large and the adults reach 7-12 in length (though females are generally larger than males).

These Michigan pond sliders are omnivorous and like eating fish, snails, insects, and aquatic vegetation. they also eat land vegetation, including fruits and vegetables.

7. Blanding’s Turtle

 Blanding’s Turtle in Michigan
  • Scientific name: Emydoidea blandingii
  • Common name: Blanding’s Turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 5 to 8 inches
  • Lifespan: up to 80 years (or more!)
  • Conservation status: Endangered

Blanding’s Turtle is also known as the “turtle that smiles” and is named in honor of William Blanding, the American naturalist.

The species is semi-aquatic and is categorized under endured species in Michigan. It is mainly concentrated in the northern half of this state, but its population is quite scattered—making it hard to find.

A typical Blanding turtle has a dark oval shell covered with faint yellow speckles. The lower side of its shell is usually yellow with black patches.

Blanding’s turtle in Michigan prefers living in marshy habitats. And the fact that it’s losing these favorite habitats is one of the reasons causing its population to decline fast.

Because this turtle species is omnivorous, it feeds on leatherworks, crayfish, and aquatic invertebrates. It also occasionally feeds on plants and doesn’t rely on water to help it sallow its food as it’s the case with most turtle species.

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8. Spotted Turtle

 Spotted Turtle in Michigan
  • Scientific name: Clemmys guttata
  • Common name: Spotted Turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 4 to 5 inches
  • Lifespan: 25 to 50 years
  • Conservation status: Endangered

Spotted turtles in Michigan reside in shallow marshes, swamps, and bogs. They’re semi-aquatic and are comfortable on the land just as they are in the waters.

An adult spotted turtle has a smooth upper shell that ranges from olive to dark brown in color, with some light yellow spots. The neck and head feature irregular orange or yellow spots and streaks. Also, their tails are fairly long.

The turtles are omnivorous and their diet involves crustaceans, mollusks, insects, and plant matter (occasionally). Note that these turtles are aggressive hunters and will actively seek their prey.

Unfortunately, the population of spotted turtles in Michigan is on the decline due to human interference and habitat loss. Their unique shell patterns make them a favorite species of a pet turtle for many people.

For this reason, they’re listed as endangered and protected by many governing bodies. In Michigan state, you can only own ONE spotted turtle and not more than that!

Above all, the spotted turtles of Michigan are incredibly smart. Studies carried on them using a maze indicate they have the same brain capacity as the mouse!

9. Wood Turtle

 Wood Turtle in Michigan
  • Scientific name: Glyptemys insculpta
  • Common name: Wood turtle, Sculptured Tortoise, Redleg, Red-legged Tortoise
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 5.5 to 8 inches
  • Lifespan: 40 to 60 years
  • Conservation status: Endangered

Wood turtle species also inhabit the various woodland habitats across Michigan state. However, they also tend to stay near the water and will frequently venture into it.

During winter, they tend to hibernate at the bottom of deep rivers and pools.

The turtles get their name from their sculpted-like looks. Their upper shells are dark brown and have sport patterns resembling wood grain and growth rings.

Their scutes may sometimes appear like they’re pyramiding, further enhancing their sculpted shape.

Wood turtles of Michigan are diurnal omnivores and their diet mainly consists of berries, plants, insects, and mollusks.

They forage for their food widely and have even been observed stomping their feet on the ground as a way of tricking the earthworms into surfacing.

10. Eastern Box Turtle

 Eastern Box Turtle in Michigan
  • Scientific name: Terrapene carolina
  • Common name: Eastern Box Turtle, Land turtle, Box Turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 4.5 and 7 inches
  • Lifespan: 50 to 100 years
  • Conservation status: Vulnerable

The eastern box turtles are also present in Michigan. They prefer these areas due to abundant access to sunlight and food sources nearby.

An adult turtle of this species is about 4.5 to 7 inches and weighs just 2lbs. It has a high, domed shell shape with a ridge running from head to toe. The shell of this turtle has varying colors of olive, brown, and tan.

The variation in markings on the shells of these turtles is so variable that you can’t easily recognize one by looking at the shell alone.

These eastern box turtles of Michigan are omnivorous and feed on a variety of foods including insects, meat, fruits, vegetables, and various types of vegetation.

Note that eastern box turtles are taken from the Michigan wild for pet trade, leading to a decline in their population. For this reason, many states have illegalized capturing and selling of this species.

And those in captivity end up dying due to poor conditions or being abandoned or released back into the wild because they’re too demanding to maintain.

Related: Turtles in New Mexico

Conclusion

Michigan has the perfect living conditions for various turtle species, thanks to the 41.5% water coverage in the state.

The turtle species you’ll find here include the snapping turtle, spiny softshell, common map turtle, painted turtle, red-eared slider, spotted turtle, wood turtle, common musk turtle, and Blanding’s turtle.

We have discussed each of these turtles in the above guide to help you better understand them.

While some of these native turtles are common and thriving excellently, others are endangered and under special protection. Some are rare species and you’ll be lucky to spot one.

Turtles in Michigan