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Turtles in Quebec

There are several turtles in Quebec. These turtles can generally be found to the south. Turtles in Quebec include map turtle, musk turtle, snapping turtle, map turtle, painted turtle, Blanding’s turtle, wood turtle, and spiny softshell.

These turtle species are considered to be threatened, vulnerable, or of special concern. This means that keeping these reptiles as pets is prohibited in Quebec.

Quebec is a province in Canada, found to the east, this province has Quebec City as the capital and Montreal as the largest city. In terms of area, Quebec is the largest province in Canada, and in terms of population, it is the second largest.

Turtles Native to Quebec

1. Common Snapping Turtle

Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) in wet sand by St Lawrence River, Neuville, Canada
A Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) in wet sand by St Lawrence River, Neuville, Canada . – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Chelydridae
  • Scientific Name: Chelydra serpentina
  • Adult Size: 8 to 18.5 inches
  • Lifespan Range: 47 to 100 years
  • Conservation Status: Special Concern 

Chelydra serpentina is among the largest freshwater turtles in the world and is the largest freshwater turtle in Quebec. This giant can reach a straight carapace length of 8 to 18.5 inches. The carapace is dark in coloration with colors including olive, black or brown. There is the presence of keels on the carapace.

These are more prominent the younger the turtle is. C. serpentina also has a large head and hooked upper jaw. The neck is long and so is the tail.

The tail can be almost as long as the turtle. The males are generally much larger than the female both in length and in mass.

While males on average reach a length of 19.4 inches (49.4 cm) and mass of 40 lb (18 kg), females on average reach a length of 14.4 inches (36.6 cm) and mass of 20 lb (9 kg).

In Quebec expect to find the species centrally and to the south. They can also be found in southern New Brunswick, Nova Scotia (on the mainland), southern Manitoba, and southeastern Saskatchewan. The species can also be found in the United States.

The turtle is aquatic and lives in slow-moving shallow bodies of water. Even in deep lakes, they are found in the shallow edges. When females nest, their nests are usually a few hundred meters from their aquatic habitat.

It is illegal to keep the snapping turtle as a pet in Quebec.

Similarly, it is also considered illegal to trade in these turtles regardless of whether or not the turtle is captive-bred. Captive-bred chelonians are not illegal to keep as pets in many parts of the United States.

While they can be challenging to keep as pets mostly due to their large size, which means that they require a large outdoor enclosure, they are quite commonly kept as pets. However, if you wish to keep the snapping turtle as a pet, it is important to keep in mind that they are a long-lived species.

This chelonian is suspected to live up to 100 years in the wild with an estimated lifespan of 30 years. In captivity. Their lifespan is estimated to be 47 years.

According to the Heritage ranking system developed by The Nature Conservancy. The snapping turtle has an S4 status rank in both Quebec and New Brunswick.

This means that in the wild, the turtle is uncommon but not rare. This shows that the wild population has been on the decline in Quebec.

The main threat to the wild populations in Canada is the loss of wetlands (an aquatic habitat of the turtle). Road mortality is also another major threat to wild populations.

2. Map Turtle

Northern Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica) in pebbles near Reeds Lake, East Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA
A Northern Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica) in pebbles near Reeds Lake, East Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. – Source
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Graptemys geographica
  • Adult Size: 4 to 10 inches
  • Other Common Names: Geographic map turtle, common map turtle
  • Lifespan: 20 years
  • Conservation Status: Special Concern

The map turtle is interesting-looking, the contour-like marking on the carapace gives the appearance of a topographical map. The northern map turtle is also known as the common map turtle. This is down to their relative abundance.

The northern map turtle is the map turtle endemic to Quebec. This turtle can be found only in southwestern Quebec. Its geographic range in Quebec is quite limited.

The turtle can also be found in southern Ontario. Those are the areas that encompass the northern map turtle range in Canada.

This turtle can also be found south of Canada from the Great Lakes to Georgia. Graptemys geographica occurs in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, and Georgia.

G. geographica is considered a medium-sized turtle. The males of the species are quite larger than the males. Adult males have a carapace length of 3.5 inches to  6.5 inches. Adult females on the other hand have a carapace length of 7 to 10.5 inches.

The turtle is aquatic and as such lives in aquatic biomes. These turtles can be found in rivers, lakes, and ponds. They prefer large water bodies with an abundance of vegetation that serves as food.

The body of water also must have several basking sites such as fallen logs and debris.  During the winter, the northern map turtle brumates at the bottom of the lakes and rivers where they inhabit.

The carapace of the species is brownish or olive with yellowish or orange contour-like lines on the carapace. The plastron is yellow in coloration. These markings fade as the turtle ages.

The species is considered to be a species of least concern on the IUCN Red List. In Quebec, however, the species is considered to be a species of special concern.

This makes ownership and trade of the species illegal in Quebec. Threats to the turtle include traffic mortality when gravid females leave their aquatic habitat to nest.

Boat traffic also negatively impacts the quality of the turtle’s habitat. Other threats include poor water quality (which leads to a reduction in prey abundance), shoreline development, boat propeller accidents, and fishing by-catch.

In Quebec, it is illegal to keep the northern map turtle as a pet since it is native to the region. In other parts of the continent and world, it may be legal to keep these turtles as pets.

You will need to properly research the wildlife laws of your locale before keeping the northern map turtle as a pet.

The captive care of the map turtle is quite simple compared to other turtles.

They require large aquatic enclosures such as a turtle tank, an aquarium, or an outdoor pond. They also require a basking spot with temperatures of 85 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the water temperature at 72 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

You may or may not need an aquatic heater to achieve this temperature.

3. Painted Turtles

Midland Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta marginata) basking on a log at St Lawrence River, Quebec, Canada
A Midland Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta marginata) basking on a log at St Lawrence River, Quebec, Canada. – Source

Both the midland painted turtle and the western painted turtle are endemic to Quebec. While both turtles belong to the same species, they belong to different subspecies. These turtles are quite similar in appearance and tend to be confused with one another.

The easiest way to distinguish the western painted turtle from the midland painted turtle is to inspect the pattern that the scutes form on the carapace. The scutes of the western painted turtle form a mesh-like pattern, the scutes of the midland painted turtle do not.

Also, the plastrons of both turtles are quite different. While the western painted turtle’s plastron has red/orange markings around the edges, the midland painted turtle’s plastron lacks these red markings. The plastron of the midland painted turtle is quite bare.

The western painted turtle can reach a carapace length of 10 inches (26.6 cm). Midland painted turtles grow to a length of 4 to 10 inches (10 to 25 cm).

The midland painted turtle can be found in southern Quebec and southern Ontario east of Lake Superior. These turtles are also endemic to the United States specifically from south of Quebec and Ontario to northern Alabama and Tennessee.

Painted turtles are aquatic turtles and prefer slow-moving freshwater bodies with soft bottoms and an abundance of aquatic vegetation.

The midland painted turtles prefer shallower and quieter parts of the water bodies such as coves and shores. Western painted turtles can be found in lakes and streams as well as roadside pools and pasture ponds.

Painted turtles are considered a species of Special Concern in Quebec. This makes them illegal to keep as pets or to trade. This status is due to the decline in wild populations.

This decline can prove difficult to reverse. The causes of the decline and extirpation include the loss of wetlands. These wetlands provide habitats for the turtle.

Road mortality is another cause for the decline in the wild population. Road mortality is generally limited to gravid females that leave their habitats during the nesting period.

With roads between the nesting sites and the aquatic habitats, road mortality is a serious issue.

The late reproductive maturation, lengthy lifespans, and log generation time mean that even a few deaths to road mortality can lead to serious implications on wild population decline.

Another threat to the species is nest predation from predators such as skunks and raccoons. Collection for the pet trade and food is also a threat to wild populations.

4. Eastern Musk Turtle (Stinkpot)

Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus) being held at Echo Lake Park, Brentmoor, Fort Worth, Texas, USA
An Eastern Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus) being held at Echo Lake Park, Brentmoor, Fort Worth, Texas, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Kinosternidae
  • Scientific Name: Sternotherus odoratus
  • Other Common Names: Eastern musk turtle
  • Adult Size: 3 to 5 inches
  • Average Lifespan: 30 years
  • Average Price Range: $30 to $80
  • Conservation Status: Critically Imperiled in Quebec, Special Concern in Canada

The eastern musk turtle is an aquatic species, spending almost its entire life in water bodies. Gravid females will come to land to nest.

They nest close to their aquatic habitat with nests just 3 to 11 meters from their aquatic habitats.

The aquatic habitats of the species include wetlands, canals, ponds, streams, bays, lakes, and rivers with soft bottoms and slow-moving waters. S. odoratus can usually be found in shallow waters of a depth of about 2 meters.

They also prefer habitats with an abundance of aquatic vegetation. These turtles are not known to bask out of water. If they have to bask, they do so under floating vegetation near the surface.

S. odoratus is the only turtle of the Kinosternidae family in Canada. The wild populations in Quebec are the northernmost of the turtle’s geographic range.

This turtle is found in the southmost part of Quebec. In the United States, and the entirety of North America, the species is limited to the east.

The species can be found from Florida to Quebec and in Wisconsin and central texas. Only about 5 percent of the turtle’s geographic range extends into Canada.

The species are omnivorous bottom feeders and feed on carrion, fish, mollusks, and even vegetation. They do also have several predators including predatory birds, predatory fish, foxes, crows, herons, striped skunks, fishers, snapping turtles, watersnakes, American bullfrogs, and raccoons.

With these species, mating generally occurs from April to May and September to October. Nesting occurs from June to July, and the eggs hatch between August and September.

The turtle is relatively long-lived with a lifespan of 30 years in the wild and a generation time of 14 to 20 years. They reach reproductive maturity quite early at age 5 to 6 years for males and age 8 to 9 for females.

The species is illegal to keep as a pet in Quebec. The trade of the species is also illegal. However, they are kept as pets in most states in the United States. If you wish to keep the turtle as a pet, the care can be quite demanding.

The main threat to the musk turtle in Quebec and Ontario include habitat destruction, land development that alters the habitat (such as draining and dredging waterways and wetlands, dam placement, and shoreline development).

The species’ late reproductive maturity, low adult recruitment, and chronic added mortality of younglings and female adults mean that threats can cause the elimination of local wild populations.

The turtle has an S1 rank (Critically Imperiled) in Quebec according to the Heritage ranking system developed by the Nature Conservancy and maintained by NatureServe.

5. Blanding’s Turtle

Blanding's Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) being held in front of a field at Long Point National Wildlife Area, Ontario, Canada
A Blanding’s Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) being held in front of a field at Long Point National Wildlife Area, Ontario, Canada. – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Emydoidea blandingii
  • Adult Size: 7 to 9 inches or 18 to 23 cm
  • Lifespan: 77 years
  • Conservation Status: Threatened (in Quebec)

The Great Lakes/St. Lawrence (which includes the Quebec population) wild population E. blandingii is designated as Threatened while the Nova Scotia population is considered Endangered. Under the SARA (Species at Risk Act), it is illegal to kill, capture, harm, harass or destroy the residence of the turtle.

In Quebec, the E. blandingii is designated as threatened under the Loi sur les espèces menacées ou vulnérables. This makes it illegal to keep the species as a pet in Quebec. The habitat of the species is also protected under the Loi sur les espèces menacées ou vulnérables.

The majority of Blanding’s turtles in Canada are situated in the Great Lakes / St. Lawrence, isolated populations are also located in Quebec and Nova Scotia. In the United States, these turtles can be found in the northeast. From Maine to Nebraska and South Dakota westward and Indiana and Illinois southwards.

The E. blandingii is highly domed with a brown or black carapace with yellow spots. These spots are less noticeable the older the turtle is.

The plastron is yellow in coloration. The throat and chin of this turtle are bright yellows.

The turtle can be easily identified by this. Adults are usually 18 to 23 cm (7 to 9 inches).

The E. blandingii is a semi-aquatic turtle that inhabits wetlands and aquatic biomes with slow-moving shallow water where they can be found. These chelonians can be found in bays, ponds, marshes, swamps, bogs, and fens.

Their habits must have an abundance of vegetation. Since the turtle basks quire often, there must be several basking sites within the habitat and an abundance of aquatic vegetation.

The turtle faces a variety of threats. Some of these include the land conversion where the natural habitats of these turtles are converted to urban and agricultural lands.

This leads to habitat loss. This has had a huge negative effect on the population.

The European common reed has also led to an undesirable conversion of wetlands where the species can be found. Road mortality is also another cause of the reduction of the species’ number.

The turtle is long-lived, reaches reproductive maturity late, and has a high generation time.

These characteristics coupled with the low reproductive potential of the turtle mean that adult mortality even as low as 1 to 5% can cause a serious dent in population numbers. The last threat to the wild population is nest predation where the eggs of the species are preyed on by predators such as skunks and raccoons. 

6. Wood Turtle

Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) in sand and grass at Cisna run, Pennsylvania, USA
A Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) in sand and grass at Cisna Run, Pennsylvania, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Glyptemys insculpta
  • Adult Size: 8 inches
  • Lifespan: 50 years
  • Conservation Status: Imperiled in Quebec on the NatureServe conservation ranks, 

Glyptemys insculpta is a moderately sized freshwater turtle that reaches lengths of 16 to 25 cm. This turtle is semi-aquatic and can be found in or close to water.

The species has a low carapace which is brownish to yellowish in coloration. On the scutes, you can find growth lines that form pyramidal concentric ridges.

These ridges give the appearance of sculptured wood. The turtle acquires its common name from this feature. The skin of the turtle is generally brown in coloration except for the limbs and neck which can be orange, red, or yellow in coloration.

While there is little information on the turtle, they are known to live over 50 years. The species is also known to reach reproductive maturity at age 11 to 22 years.

These characteristics coupled with the low reproductive potential of the turtle (there are years in which females do not reproduce) mean that adult mortality even as low as 1 to 5% can cause a serious dent in population numbers.

The species can be found in southern Quebec where they have the second-largest adult population in Canada.

There are an estimated 2000 to 2500 adult individuals in Quebec where the species is considered Vulnerable under the Act Respecting Threatened or Vulnerable Species and has a NatureServe conservation rank of S2 (Imperiled).

Threats to the wild populations include habitat loss and fragmentation. This is down to urban and agricultural development.

Additionally, the high demand for the species on the pet trade has led to poaching which has led to a major fall in population numbers. Road mortality is another factor that significantly affects the population numbers.

The late reproductive maturity age coupled with the low reproductive potential of the turtle (there are years in which females do not reproduce) mean that adult mortality even as low as 1% to 5% can cause a serious dent in population numbers. Nest predation by skunks and raccoons is also a major threat to the wild populations.

7. Spiny Softshell Turtle

Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera) on rocks at Glenn C. Hilton, Jr Memorial Park, North Carolina, USA
A Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera) on rocks at Glenn C. Hilton, Jr Memorial Park, North Carolina, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Trionychidae
  • Scientific Name: Apalone spinifera
  • Adult Size: 13 to 48 cm or 5 to 19 inches
  • Lifespan: 50 years
  • Conservation Status: Threatened in Quebec

The spiny softshell is the only softshell turtle that is native to Canada. While the turtle is considered to be of Least Concern on the IUCN. The turtle is considered Endangered and/or Threatened in Canada and Quebec.

The spiny softshell has a leathery carapace instead of the large carapace seen on most turtles. The turtle also has spiny projects at the front edge of the carapace.

The leathery nature of the carapace and the spiny projections coupled together gives this turtle its common name. The overall coloration of the turtle is olive-grey, tan, or brownish.

Males are much smaller than females. While adult females reach lengths of 43 centimeters, males do not exceed lengths of 23 centimeters.

In Quebec, the turtle can be found in the southwest. Spiny softshell inhabits lakes, and rivers with soft bottoms, an abundance of aquatic vegetation, and sandy shorelines or sandbars.

The species is considered Threatened under the Loi sur les espèces menacées ou vulnérables (in english – Act respecting threatened and vulnerable species ) and is protected under the Loi sur la conservation et la mise en valeur de la faune.

This prohibits the trade of the turtle and also prohibits pet ownership of the turtle be it captive-bred, wild-caught, native or foreign. The importation of the turtle is also prohibited.

Similarly, the habitat of the turtle is also protected.

The turtle’s wild population faces a variety of threats, some of which are discussed here. The first is habitat fragmentation, degradation, and loss due to riverine and shoreline habitat development and alteration.

These developments include the construction of roads, dams, bridges as well as urban and agricultural developments.

Illegal developments including boat dock installation, pond excavation, and stream diversion also negatively impact the habitats by destroying basking and nesting sites. Additionally, they also reduce the availability of overwintering sites.

Accidental mortality is another threat to wild numbers. Accidental mortality can be caused by collisions with boats and fishing by-catch from both commercial and recreational fishing.

When trapped underwater, the turtle will burn through the oxygen in the lungs and end up drowning.

Frequently Asked Questions

This depends on the turtle which you wish to own or keep as a pet. It is illegal; to keep in captivity any turtle that is native to Quebec and a further extent Canada.

This is due to the threatened nature of the wild populations. Similarly, it is illegal to destroy, disturb or damage the habitat and nest of native turtles.

However, native turtles aren’t the only turtles that can be found in Quebec.

You can acquire a number of non-native turtle species such as box turtles, helmeted turtles, sliders, sideneck turtles, and tortoises. These non-native species can be imported or acquired through pet stores.

Are the turtles found in Quebec dangerous?

The turtles found in Quebec are not dangerous. The spiny softshell can be aggressive and even bite when grabbed, but these turtles avoid humans. Regardless, turtles do carry salmonella just like other reptiles. Regardless of how clean a turtle is, it can still carry salmonella.

To prevent any complications and illness from salmonella infection, care needs to be taken when handling turtles.

  • Wash your hands after holding any turtle. Also, wash your hands even after interacting with anything that the turtle comes in contact with; these include enclosure and its content. 
  • The turtle should be nowhere near food.
  • Supervise children when they come into contact with turtles. Also, ensure that the child washes the hands thoroughly after coming in contact with a turtle. Children are particularly susceptible to salmonella. 
  • Regardless of how tempting it may be, do not snuggle with your turtle or kiss it. 

How do I buy a turtle in Quebec?

Before you acquire a turtle, ensure that the species is legal to own. As mentioned in a previous answer, it is prohibited to own turtles native to Canada in Quebec. You can keep non-native turtles that are not threatened (in the wild), as pets.

Once you are sure that the turtle you wish to keep is legal, you can visit a local herp pet shop. It is a good idea to support local businesses. You also get to interact with a human who can offer advice and provide turtle supplies.

An alternative route is to contact a respectable online breeder. Websites such as  Backwater Reptiles, FreshMarineMy Turtle Store, The Turtle Source, and Underground Reptiles are places to get in touch with breeders.

How do I adopt a turtle in Quebec?

Adoption can be a good alternative to buying a turtle. Because of the longevity of turtles, some people are unable to keep caring for their turtles.

Caring for a turtle can also be expensive and these reptiles can take a lot of space when they reach maturity. For these reasons, many turtles are put up for adoption. Adopting a turtle ensures that estranged turtles find a home.

Adopting a turtle requires you to do your research. They do still occupy a lot of space and setting up the enclosure for the turtle can be quite expensive.

Some links to check out if you are interested in adopting a turtle in Quebec include – spca.com and tortoise.com.

Are turtles found in Quebec difficult to care for and keep?

If you live in Quebec then you are not allowed to keep a turtle native to Quebec. However, if you are outside Quebec, many of these turtles are legal to keep as pets.

Turtles in general can be quite challenging to keep as pets. To start, the initial cost can be quite high. Initial costs can be as high as $1000.

Additionally, veterinarian costs can also be high. Yearly checkups are recommended and those can be quite expensive.

Other costs include recurring costs such as feeding, electricity costs from heating, replacing heat and basking lamps, and others.

While turtles do not require constant attention, the setup has to be just right and may need to be inspected regularly. Some turtles are also more difficult to care for than others.

Turtles such as snapping turtles, musk turtles, Blanding’s turtles, and wood turtles can be challenging to keep. Others such as midland and western painted turtles are quite easy to care for and keep.

Conclusion

Several turtle species can be found in Quebec. These species include map turtle, musk turtle, snapping turtle, map turtle, painted turtle, Blanding’s turtle, wood turtle, and spiny softshell.

These turtles are generally found in southern Quebec. Because of the threatened nature of the wild populations, these turtles are illegal to keep as pets. However, a number of non-native turtle species can be kept as pets.

That is to say, you can find several turtle species that can be kept as pets in Quebec. Some of these species include box turtles, helmeted turtles, sliders, and sideneck turtles.

If you have any extra information or questions, kindly leave a comment.

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