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Turtles in Pennsylvania

There are 13 species of native turtles in Pennsylvania as well as 2 non-native species that are classed as invasive. This collection of reptiles ranges from more terrestrial species such as the Eastern Box turtle to fully aquatic specimens like the Northern Red-bellied Cooter.

Sadly, some of Pennsylvania’s native species are classed as Endangered, such as the Blanding’s turtle. If you are thinking of using this list as a starting point for choosing your next pet turtle, remember to check Pennsylvania’s state turtle laws in case any species are illegal.

If you are considering getting one of these turtles as a pet, always look for a turtle to adopt first. This helps save an animal from spending the rest of their life in a rescue center. If adoption is not possibly, aim to purchase a captive-bred turtle rather than a wild-caught individual.

If one of these species catches your eye, click on their name or image to access a comprehensive care guide for the turtle as well as interesting facts and other information.

Feel free to use this list as a field herping guide while out exploring the lakes, mountains, and plains of Pennsylvania. Here are the 15 turtles found in Pennsylvania.

Turtles in Pennsylvania

1. Blanding’s Turtle

Blandings Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) at Crex Meadows Wildlife area
Blandings Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) at Crex Meadows Wildlife area
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Emydoidea blandingii
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 5 to 8 inches (12.5 to 20 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 80 years
  • Average Price Range: $300 to $450

Named after naturalist William Blanding, these endangered turtles have dark oval shells covered in yellow speckles. Their plastrons and the undersides of their throats are yellow with black patches. Their shells do not have keels and inhabit marshy areas with slow-moving waters.

Populations of Blanding’s turtles in Pennsylvania are classed as Endangered due across the state because of increased threats to their preferred marshy habitats. They are cautious, often diving to safety at any sign of trouble.

Blanding’s turtles are omnivorous, mainly eating crustaceans, insects, and mollusks, although they will occasionally eat plants.

2. Bog Turtle

Bog Turtle in Woods (Glyptemys muhlenbergii) by Patrick Randall
Bog Turtle in Woods (Glyptemys muhlenbergii) by Patrick Randall
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Glyptemys muhlenbergii
  • Other Names: Muhlenberg’s turtle
  • Adult Size: 3.5 to 5 inches (9 to 12.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 40 years
  • Average Price Range: $250 to $450

Also known as Muhlenberg’s turtle, Bog turtles are the smallest turtle species found in North America. Unfortunately, these aquatic turtles are also a Critically Endangered species thanks to habitat loss.

Bog turtles have keeled shells that range from olive or dark brown to black. Some of their scutes may be covered with yellow or red star-like patterns. Bog turtles inhabit boggy and swampy regions with slow-moving water sources. They can also be found in meadows.

Bog turtles are omnivores and eat earthworms, insects, and mollusks along with occasional pieces of vegetation. They are active during the warmest parts of the day and can eat on land or in the water

3. Eastern Box Turtle

Eastern Box Turtle - (Terrapene carolina carolina), Woodbridge Virginia by Judy Gallagher
Eastern Box Turtle – (Terrapene carolina carolina), Woodbridge Virginia by Judy Gallagher
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Terrapene carolina carolina
  • Other Names: Land turtle
  • Adult Size: 4 to 7 inches (10 to 18 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 40 years
  • Average Price Range: $120 to $400

Eastern Box turtles are one of the most commonly seen species in Pennsylvania. These turtles prefer moving around on land rather than the water and mainly inhabit woodland regions as well as grasslands or marshes. They like to stay close to a water source.

Eastern Box have highly-domed dark brown shells that bear distinctive yellow and orange markings. Their plastrons are also dark brown. Incredibly, Eastern Box turtles can actually regenerate their shells!

These terrestrial turtles can roam up to 50 meters a day in search of food. Eastern Box turtles are omnivores will eat fish and invertebrates as well as plants.

4. Northern Red-bellied Cooter

Northern red bellied cooter (Pseudemys rubriventris)
Plastron of a Northern red bellied cooter (Pseudemys rubriventris) being held up by hand
  • Experience Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Pseudemys rubriventris
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 8 to 12.5 inches (20 to 31 cm)
  • Lifespan: 40 to 55 years
  • Average Price Range: $30 to $170

Northern Red-bellied Cooters are one of North America’s largest species of pond turtles and are one of Pennsylvania’s larger species. They inhabit ponds and rivers with soft substrates. They can sometimes be found in brackish water as well.

Named and identified by their eponymous red colored plastrons, Northern Red-bellied Cooters also have reddish lines on some of their scutes. Shells range from olive green to black. They also have yellowish markings on their skin.

These turtles are omnivorous, mainly feeding on mollusks and invertebrates. In Pennsylvania, Northern Red-bellied Cooters are a Threatened species and are mainly confined to southern counties that border the Delaware River.

5. Northern Map Turtle

Northern Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica) in Shannon County Missouri by Peter Paplanus
Northern Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica) in Shannon County Missouri by Peter Paplanus
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Graptemys geographica
  • Other Names: Common Map turtle
  • Adult Size: 4 to 10.5 inches (10 to 26.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 15 to 20 years
  • Average Price Range: $20 to $60

Although they are fairly common across much of North America, Northern Map turtles have a concerning situation in Pennsylvania because of habitat loss. These aquatic turtles are found mainly in eastern counties, but have also been seen in some northwestern regions of Pennsylvania.

Northern Map turtles have dark brown or olive green shells, and are named for their markings, which resemble the contours of a map and are often yellow in color. Small yellow spots behind the eyes separate the Northern Map turtle from other subspecies of Map turtle.

These turtles are mainly carnivorous, feeding on fish and aquatic invertebrates like crayfish, but also occasionally eat plants.

6. Eastern Mud Turtle

Eastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum) on forest floor
Eastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum) on forest floor
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Kinosternidae
  • Scientific Name: Kinosternon subrubrum
  • Other Names: Common Mud turtle
  • Adult Size: 3 to 5 inches (7.5 to 12.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 50 years
  • Average Price Range: $40 to $100

Eastern Mud turtles are a small aquatic species that inhabit shallow, slow-moving waters such as bogs, swamps, or tidal marshes. In Pennsylvania, Eastern Mud turtles are an Endangered species and are only found in extreme southeastern areas.

These turtles have smooth, oval shaped carapaces that range between brown and yellowish in color. Their shells drop quite sharply at the sides and back, whilst their plastrons are larger than those of their Musk turtle relatives.

Eastern Mud turtles are omnivorous and mainly eat worms, snails and other mollusks and sometimes fish. They will also eat vegetation and like a lot of plant matter in their habitats.

7. Eastern Musk Turtle

Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus) found while herping by Stephen Durrenberger
Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus) found while herping by Stephen Durrenberger
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Kinosternidae
  • Scientific Name: Sternotherus odoratus
  • Other Names: Common Musk turtle, Stinkpot
  • Adult Size: 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 50+ years
  • Average Price Range: $20 to $90

Eastern Musk turtles are also commonly known as “Stinkpots” because of the strong odor they can excrete from their musk glands when threatened. These small turtles are quite common throughout their native parts of Pennsylvania, which include the northwest and southeastern counties.

Eastern Musk turtles have dark brown or black unmarked shells. Their heads are also dark and sport two yellowish stripes as well as fleshy barbels on their chins and necks. Because they spend so much time underwater, this small aquatic species is frequently spotted with clumps of algae on their shells.

As nocturnal omnivores, Eastern Musk turtles mainly eat small amphibians, crustaceans, and mollusks. They prefer marshy and boggy habitats with slow-moving waters.

8. Painted Turtles

Western Painted Turtle basking on log (Chrysemys picta marginata) by J.N. Stuart
Western Painted Turtle basking on log (Chrysemys picta marginata) by J.N. Stuart
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Chrysemys picta picta (Eastern Painted), Chrysemys picta marginata (Westerrn Painted)
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 4 to 10 inches (10 to 25.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
  • Average Price Range: $20 to $50

Painted turtles are a medium-sized aquatic species that are popular as pets. Two subspecies are found in Pennsylvania: the Eastern Painted turtle (Chrysemys picta picta) and the Midland Painted turtle (Chrysemys picta marginata).

Both species overlap in terms of their range in Pennsylvania and are both common across the state. These diurnal turtles prefer shallower, slow-moving waters such as marshes and ponds. Painted turtles are omnivorous and mainly eat small amphibians, insects, and mollusks.

Painted turtles have dark shells, often edged in colors ranging from yellow to red. Their faces also have yellow stripes. Eastern Painted turtles have lighter coloration around the edge of their shells, while Midland Painted turtles can be distinguished by a dark, shadow-like patch in the center of their plastrons.

9. Common Snapping Turtle

Common Snapping turtle (Chelydra Serpentina) found sitting in the woods in alabama
Common Snapping turtle (Chelydra Serpentina) found sitting in the woods in alabama
  • Experience Level: Intermediate to Expert
  • Family: Chelydridae
  • Scientific Name: Chelydra Serpentina
  • Other Names: Common Snapper, Eastern Snapping turtle, Snapper
  • Adult Size: 8 to 20 inches (20 to 50.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
  • Average Price Range: $20 to $40

Pennsylvania’s largest species, Common Snappers are powerful freshwater turtles that are widespread across the state. These intimidating turtles prefer larger bodies of water. They can be aggressive if cornered on land, but are relatively placid in the water.

Common Snapping turtles are easily identified by their famous hooked beaks, which can exert almost 150 lbs of snapping power. They usually have dark brown or green shells with prominent ridges. They also have long tails with saw-toothed spines.

Common Snappers are nocturnal omnivores that mainly eat amphibians, fish and even smaller turtles. They have even been known to eat small waterbirds if they get close enough. Occasionally they will also eat aquatic vegetation.

10. Midland Smooth Softshell

Midland Smooth Softshell Turtle (Apalone mutica mutica)
Midland Smooth Softshell Turtle (Apalone mutica mutica) on beach
  • Experience Level: Intermediate to Expert
  • Family: Trionychidae
  • Scientific Name: Apalone mutica mutica
  • Other Names: Spineless Softshell
  • Adult Size: 4.5 to 14 inches (11.5 to 35.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 25+ years
  • Average Price Range: $40 to $60

Midland Smooth Softshells are a subspecies of the Smooth Softshell (Apalone mutica). These Softshells prefer larger rivers with sandy bottoms. Unfortunately, the species looks as if it is now almost completely absent from Pennsylvania, with only a couple of sightings recorded in Clarion County in the northwest.

Like other Softshells, Midland Smooth Softshells resemble leathery pancakes and lack hard shells to protects themselves. They are usually brown or gray, with lines running from behind their eyes and snouts.

These carnivorous turtles are active during the day and bury themselves in shallow sands to sleep and to catch their preferred prey of crustaceans, insects, and mollusks.

11. Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle

Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera) found in Mississippi County foraging in water by Peter Paplanus
Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera) found in Mississippi County foraging in water by Peter Paplanus
  • Experience Level: Intermediate to Expert
  • Family: Trionychidae
  • Scientific Name: Apalone spinifera spinifera
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 5 to 17 inches (12.5 to 43 cm)
  • Lifespan: 20 to 50 years
  • Average Price Range: $70 to $280

Eastern Spiny Softshells are a subspecies of Spiny Softshell (Apalone spinifera) that has been encountered across most of Pennsylvania except for extreme northeastern counties. These turtles are very fast swimmers and prefer larger bodies of slow-moving water. They are a species listed under Special Concern in Pennsylvania.

Eastern Spiny Softshells have a pancake-like shell with dark circles or rings and a series of small spines at the front part of the shell. They have long necks and tapered beaks which they use as snorkels and sport a pair of stripes on their cheeks.

These Softshells are carnivores and will feed on any crustaceans, insects, and mollusks they can find while buried in the sandy bottoms of their river. They also occasionally eat aquatic plants.

12. Spotted Turtle

Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata) in woods sitting
Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata) in woods sitting
  • Experience Level: Intermediate to Expert
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Clemmys guttata
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 25 to 50 years
  • Average Price Range: $75 to $100

Spotted turtles are a beautiful but sadly endangered species that has been encountered in many areas of Pennsylvania except northern counties. These small, semi-aquatic turtles prefer shallower waters alongside bogs, marshes, and other wetland habitats.

Spotted turtles have smooth black shells that are covered with their eponymous bright yellow dots. Their plastrons are yellow with large black patches of varying sizes on either side. The existence of this species is being threatened by habitat loss.

Spotted turtles like to bask, often perching themselves on logs by the water. Spotted turtles are omnivorous and often eat crustaceans, insects, and mollusks as well as vegetation.

13. Wood Turtle

Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) basking on downd tree in Middlesex County, Massachussets
Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) basking on downd tree in Middlesex County, Massachussets by Patrick Randall
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Glyptemys insculpta
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 5.5 to 8 inches (14 to 20 cm)
  • Lifespan: 40 to 60 years
  • Average Price Range: $250 to $500

Wood turtles are an intelligent but endangered species that has been encountered across several areas of Pennsylvania. Sadly, habitat loss has caused these turtles to experience declining numbers. Their main habitats are meadows and woodlands with ponds or other small water sources.

Wood turtles are named because of their shells, which are rough and feel as if they’ve been sculpted from wood. Their patterning looks similar to growth rings and wood grain. They are mostly brown in color.

These diurnal turtles roam widely while looking for food. They are omnivores and often eat berries, plants, mollusks and earthworms. They can trick worms into thinking it’s raining by rocking themselves to create vibrations in the soil.

There are also two non-native turtle species that have appeared across Pennsylvania during recent decades; the Red-eared Slider and the Yellow-bellied Slider. These turtles are considered invasive and may have entered Pennsylvania’s ecosystem as captive specimens that were unsafely released into the wild.

14. Red-eared Slider

Red eared sliders stacked on top of each other basking (Trachemys scripta elegans)
Red eared sliders stacked on top of each other basking (Trachemys scripta elegans)
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Trachemys scripta elegans
  • Other Names: Red-eared Terrapin, Water Slider turtle
  • Adult Size: 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm)
  • Lifespan: 20 to 40 years
  • Average Price Range: $15 to $50

The Red-eared Slider is one of the most available species of pet turtle on the market. Babies are sold cheaply in pet stores across the country, and many end up being unsafely released into wild habitats by irresponsible or unprepared owners.

Red Eared Sliders commonly have an olive green shell, with yellowish striped markings on their scales. Their heads are usually a darker color, with yellow band markings and red patches just behind their eyes.

These turtles like to bask at the water’s edge, and often stack themselves upon each other. Red-eared Sliders prefer warm, slow-moving waters such as rivers and lakes. Their omnivorous diet consists of small fish, insects, and underwater vegetation.

15. Yellow-bellied Slider

Two yellow bellied sliders basking Female (left) male (right)
Two yellow bellied sliders basking Female (left) male (right)
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Trachemys scripta scripta
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 5 to 12 inches (12.5 to 30.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 20 to 40 years
  • Average Price Range: $15 to $50

Yellow-bellied Sliders are considered to be an invasive species in some areas. These turtles are likely former pets that were purchased cheaply and then irresponsibly released by unprepared or unwilling owners. These aquatic turtles are mainly found in wetland, rivers, and lakes.

As their name implies, these turtles have yellowish plastrons, as well as yellow markings across their skin. Yellow-bellied Sliders also have prominent yellow stripes behind their eyes. Their shells range from dark brown to olive.

Yellow-bellied Sliders are diurnal omnivores and eat a diet of aquatic vegetation along with amphibians, small fish, insects, and mollusks. They often bask on the shore and can sometimes be encountered wandering around on land.

Frequently Asked Questions about Pennsylvania turtles

What kind of turtles live in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania is home to 13 native species of turtle, ranging from the more common Eastern Box turtle to Endangered species such as Blanding’s turtles or Bog turtles.

There are also two non-native species that have been released into Pennsylvania; Red-eared and Yellow-bellied Sliders. All of Pennsylvania’s turtle species are freshwater turtles, and no Sea turtles are found in Pennsylvania.

Where do Box turtles live in Pennsylvania?

Eastern Box turtles are one of the more widespread and commonly seen turtle species in Pennsylvania. Most Box turtles can be found in grasslands or woodland habitats in central and southern Pennsylvania, and some can also be seen in extreme northwestern counties.

Do Snapping turtles live in Pennsylvania?

Common Snapping turtles are Pennsylvania’s largest species. These large freshwater turtles can be found in most of Pennsylvania’s bigger bodies of water such as lakes and rivers. They are the dominant predator in these habitats.

Which turtles are illegal in Pennsylvania?

Many of Pennsylvania’s native turtle species are sadly threatened or endangered. As such, they possession is illegal. It is illegal to own any of the following turtles;

  • Blanding’s turtles
  • Bog turtles
  • Eastern Box turtles
  • Northern Red-bellied Cooters
  • Eastern Mud turtles
  • Midland Painted turtles
  • Spotted turtles
  • Wood turtles

All of Pennsylvania’s other species can be lawfully owned, but all of them except for Common Snapping turtles come with a possession limit of 1 individual turtle. This applies to;

  • Northern Map turtles
  • Eastern Musk turtles
  • Eastern Painted turtles
  • Midland Smooth Softshells
  • Eastern Spiny Softshells

Up to 30 Common Snapping turtles may be owned in Pennsylvania, although it is not advised to keep so many of this potentially aggressive species. Most turtle keepers will only have space for a single Snapping turtle.

Conclusion

So that wraps up our list of the 15 turtles in Pennsylvania. We’ve covered the Keystone State’s 13 native turtle species, many of which are threatened or endangered, as well as 2 non-native turtles. This list can be used as a field herping guide if you are exploring Pennsylvania.

If you’re considering getting one of these species as your next pet turtle, please check to see if it is legal to own your chosen species in Pennsylvania or in other states. Each of the turtles on the list has a link to a comprehensive care guide and information sheet.

If you enjoyed this list, please feel free to comment below!

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