Turtles in Minnesota

Turtles in Minnesota – 11 Species That are Found Here

Minnesota is home to 11 turtle species. 10 of them are native to the state and include the snapping turtle (the biggest of all species), painted turtle, Blanding’s turtle, map turtle, smooth softshell, spiny softshell, wood turtle, and musk turtle.

However, the 11th species, the red-eared slider, is a non-native species in this North Star State.

The Blanding’s turtle and wood turtles of Minnesota are classified as endangered species and are put under special monitoring by the state governing bodies.

Below is the complete list of the turtles in Minnesota and the key information you need to know about each of them such as habitat, diet, lifespan, average adult size, conservation status, and more.

11 Types Of Turtles in Minnesota

Contents

1. Common Snapping Turtle

 Common Snapping Turtle in Minnesota
  • 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 Minnesota. 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 Minnesota 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 in Minnesota. 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 Minnesota 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. Western Painted turtle

 Western Painted turtle in Minnesota
  • Scientific name: Chrysemys picta belli
  • Common name: Westland Painted Turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 4 to 10 inches
  • Lifespan: 30 to 40 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The Western painted turtle is a subspecies of painted turtle and is also found in Minnesota water bodies.

This turtle is identified by an oval-shaped carapace that lacks a ridge in the middle. The carapace is usually dark olive or black in color.

The lower side of the shell is usually red, with multiple dark markings in the center. And the skin itself is covered with yellow stripes.

Westland painted turtles of Minnesota are aquatic and their webbed feet help propel them in the waters.

The most common habitats for this turtle in Minnesota include slow-moving rivers, shallow streams, and lakes. They choose these areas because they can easily find food.

Given that they’re omnivorous, they feed on aquatic vegetation as well as meat from insects, snails, shrimps, tadpoles, and earthworms.

Their hatchlings are more carnivorous to help take in more proteins for building muscle.

3. False Map Turtle

 False Map Turtle in Minnesota
  • Scientific name: Graptemys pseudogeographica
  • Common name: False Map Turtle, Sawback Turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 6 to 10 inches (females), 3.5 to 6 inches (males)
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The False map turtle is another turtle species found in Minnesota. This turtle’s preferred habitat in Minnesota includes rivers, streams, and oxbow lakes of the Missouri and Mississippi river systems.

It is an excellent swimmer and prefers moderate currents and deep waters.

Its upper shell coloring ranges from olive to dark brown, with light-colored lines on its limbs. It also features a line behind its eye that forms a backward “L” shape. The map pattern on its carapace tends to fade as the turtle ages.

Since this map turtle of Minnesota is omnivorous, it feeds on aquatic insects and animals as well as vegetation. It is fond of river snails and crustaceans. Don’t forget it has strong jaws and can give a nasty bite!

Like most of the other aquatic turtles of Minnesota, this map turtle spends most of its waking hours sunning.

The false map turtle is quite shy and quietly and swiftly slides into the water at the slightest signs of disturbance. It likes spending most of its time in water and is most active in climate conditions of over 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. Northern Map Turtle

 Northern Map Turtle in Minnesota
  • Scientific name: Graptemys geographica
  • Common name: Northern Map Turtle, Common 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 Minnesota. To be more specific, this freshwater turtle resides in the rivers and lakes of Minnesota.

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 Minnesota 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.

See also  Types of Softshell Turtles

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

5. Ouachita Map turtle

 Ouachita Map turtle in Minnesota
  • Scientific name: Graptemys ouachitensis
  • Common name: Ouachita Map Turtle, Map Turtle
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Size: 3 to 5 inches (males), 8 to 10 inches (females)
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The Ouachita map turtle lives in the southeastern counties of Minnesota, along the border with Wisconsin. The turtle makes an excellent choice of pet for many people since it’s easy to care for.

As for its name, this species is named after the river where it was discovered—Ouachita!

Ouachita turtle is medium to large in terms of size. The average adult female is 3-5 inches long while the male is 8 to 10 inches long. It features thin, yellowing lines that form a web on the turtle’s shell (similar to a contour elevation map).

Moreover, the turtle has brown to olive coloring, with a light spot under both eyes.

The easiest way to identify this Minnesota turtle from other map turtle subspecies is by checking the dots on its face. They usually have 3 prominent spots—under the jawline, under the eye, and behind the eye.

Note that this turtle prefers living in stagnant or slow-moving waters, including ponds, lakes, and streams. of Minnesota It also prefers waters with plenty of vegetation.

This species is omnivorous and eats meat, insects, vegetables, fruits, and aquatic vegetation, to name but a few.

Also read: Turtles in New Hampshire

6. Eastern Musk Turtle

 Eastern Musk Turtle in Minnesota
  • 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 Eastern Musk Turtle is another aquatic turtle found in Minnesota’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.

Eastern musk turtles of Minnesota 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.

Also, these Minnesota 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.

7. Smooth Softshell Turtle

 Smooth Softshell Turtle in Minnesota
  • Scientific name: Apalone mutica
  • Common name: Midland Smooth Shell
  • Family: Trionychidae
  • Size: 6 to 13 inches
  • Lifespan: 40 to 60 years
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The smooth softshell turtle boasts its position as the fastest turtle on land in Minnesota! Though most people believe these turtles are slow-moving, they must be quick to enable them to outrun their predators given that their soft shells don’t offer much protection.

Shell color of this turtle species ranges from olive to dark brown. The upper part of its shell features dark markings (with female markings appearing in a blotchier pattern than the males’)

The shell of these turtles also appears rounder and flatter, just like other softshell species.

These turtles like inhabiting waterbodies like rivers and streams in Minnesota that provide an abundance of mud or sand at the bottom. They can also be found in stagnant waterbodies.

Smooth softshell turtles of Minnesota are omnivorous and their diet revolves around aquatic vegetation and insects. However, they have been observed to like meat more than plant matter and will mainly eat snails, insects, and fish.

8. Spiny Softshell Turtle

 Spiny Softshell Turtle in Minnesota
  • 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 Spiny softshell turtle is a medium-to-large freshwater species that lives in Minnesota’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.

See also  Turtles in Pennsylvania - 15 Species That are Found Here

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 Minnesota 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.

9. Wood Turtle

 Wood Turtle in Minnesota
  • 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 Minnesota 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 in Minnesota.

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 Minnesota 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. Blanding’s Turtle

 Blanding’s Turtle in Minnesota
  • 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 as endangered species in Minnesota. It lives in the marshes and wetland areas of this state. It has been mainly spotted in the southern and central-eastern counties of Minnesota.

Blanding’s 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 Minnesota 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.

11. Red-eared Slider

 Red-eared Slider in Minnesota
  • 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 the only non-native turtle found in Minnesota. This turtle is a sub-species of pond sliders and a native species of Minnesota.

It is a semi-aquatic turtle and prefers living in marshes, ponds, lakes, and creeks in Minnesota.

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 Minnesota are pretty large and the adults reach 7-12 in length (though females are generally larger than males).

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

Related: Turtles in Louisiana

Conclusion

We’ve just covered the 11 turtles you’ll find in Minnesota and the basic information you need to know about each of them.

Whether you want a herping guide for your field trip to Minnesota or you’re looking for your next pet turtle this information will come in handy.

Freshwater and semi-aquatic turtles make the largest group of turtles in Minnesota and include snapping turtles, softshells, map turtles, and painted turtles.

The red-eared slider is the only non-native turtle in Minnesota.

Don’t forget that some turtles like the Wood and Blanding’s turtles are labeled as threatened or endangered species and put under special protection in the state.

Turtles in Minnesota