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Turtles in Saskatchewan

There are only two turtles native to Saskatchewan and these are the snapping turtle and the western painted turtle. Both turtles are illegal to keep as pets.

The snapping turtle is regarded as one of the most dangerous turtles in the world.

This turtle is capable of causing serious injuries with its bite. It is also voracious when disturbed. The western painted turtle on the other hand is regarded as the largest of the painted turtles reaching a length of 10 inches.

There is one turtle species that can be kept as a pet in the province and this is the common box turtle. The species includes the subspecies (Terrapene c. bauri, Terrapene c. major, and Terrapene c. triunguis) as well.

Turtles in Saskatchewan

1. Common Snapping Turtle

Common snapping turtle in grass (Chelydra serpentina)
Common snapping turtle in the grass (Chelydra serpentina)
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Chelydridae
  • Scientific Name: Chelydra serpentina
  • Adult Size: 14 to 20 inches
  • Lifespan: 55 years
  • Conservation Status: Special Concern in Canada

The snapping turtle is one of the more common turtles in Canada. This species can be found from southeastern Saskatchewan through southern Ontario all the way to Nova Scotia.

While the species are much more common in eastern Canada, they can be found fairly easily in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

The species is a freshwater turtle so can be found in slow-moving freshwater bodies with soft bottoms. The species can be found both in wetlands such as marshes and swamps and also in aquatic biomes such as ponds and lakes.

C. serpentina can reach masses of 16 kg (35 lb) and lengths of 35 cm to 50 cm (14 to 20 inches) in carapace length making the common napping turtle the largest freshwater turtle in Canada. The turtle has a thick and flat carapace (the undershell) which is dark in coloration.

The studded tail of the snapping turtle is long and can be as long as the carapace. The species have thick stout limbs and necks with tubercles.

The turtle is unable to retract into its shell and rely on its powerful bit to defend itself. The bite of the snapping turtle is strong enough to break bones and amputate human fingers.

The snapping turtle has a long lifespan just like most turtles. Once the turtle reaches adulthood, it can easily live to be over 70 years. The turtle takes a while to reach maturity and only does so at age 15 to 20.

This means that the deaths of mature snapping turtles have telling negative effects on the wild population.

Keeping this turtle as a pet in Canada is considered illegal. It is legal to own a member of the species as a pet in parts of the united states. Before you get C. serpentina as a pet, it is necessary to know the legality of ownership. 

Keeping the snapping turtle as a pet can be challenging. The species require a large enclosure with a pond. Apart from that, they can be aggressive when threatened.

They can easily amputate fingers and cause severe lacerations and even disfigurement. I wouldn’t recommend the snapping turtle to a beginner. Even for an expert, the species can be a handful.

C. serpentina has a species of special concern designation in Canada. The wild population of the snapping turtle in Canada has been on the decline and this is mainly down to the destruction of the turtle’s wetland habitats.

Apart from this, road mortality is a major cause of the decline of wild populations.

This is particularly true of female adults who attempt to cross roads in order to nest. Sadly, these turtles have also been poached by individuals who feel that they are dangerous to humans.

This is however far from the truth. As far as you leave the snapping turtle alone, the chances of an attack are almost 0.

On the IUCN Red List, C. serpentina has a Least Concern status. The worldwide population trend is stable.

A visit to can help you decide which species you can keep as a pet and the species that are illegal to keep as a pet.

2. Western Painted Turtle

Western Painted turtle (Chrysemys picta belli) in pond surrounded by algea and brush by Isis Khalil
Western Painted turtle (Chrysemys picta belli) in pond surrounded by algea and brush by Isis Khalil
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Chrysemys picta bellii
  • Adult Size: 10 inches
  • Lifespan: 30 years
  • Conservation Status: Endangered in Canada’s Pacific Coast (which is the coast of British Columbia and Vancouver Island),  Special Concern in Canada

There are three subspecies of the painted turtle in Canada and these include the midland painted turtle, the eastern painted turtle, and the western painted turtle.

The subspecies endemic to Saskatchewan is the western painted turtle. This species is found in the south to southeast of the province.

C. p. bellii is the largest of the painted turtles and reaches a carapace length of 25 cm (10 inches) as adults. As you can see this turtle’s shell is almost a foot long.

The turtle itself is large for a freshwater turtle. C. p. bellii don’t reproduce as often as the other subspecies do although females are capable of laying more eggs, 15 at most. The eggs hatch in fall, however, the hatchlings tend to brumate through the winter and only emerge during the spring.

In Canada, the wild population is quite extensive. The western painted turtle geographic range in Canada begins in British Columbia and ends in Ontario.

The population is strictly in the south. The turtle can be found in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario.

The population on the Pacific coast of Canada is very low; there are believed to be fewer than 250 mature western painted turtles in that region.

The turtle can often be found in shallow freshwaters such as streams, lakes, and ponds. The subspecies prefer slow-moving bodies of water with a soft mud bottom and abundant freshwater vegetation.

Since the turtle basks a lot, there have to be several basking sites within the habitat. This can be floating logs or overhanging branches. The nesting sites of the turtle are never far from the aquatic habitat of the female.

The ownership and collection of the western painted turtle in Saskatchewan is illegal. However, the ownership of this turtle is considered legal in most parts of the United States.

It is important that you have a care sheet for this turtle if you wish to keep one as a pet. These turtles are relatively easy to care for and keep.

They do however require a large aquatic setup. As you may have guessed, they need a pond or a small pool if they are to be kept outdoors. They also need to be protected from predators as they are particularly vulnerable.

Juveniles and hatchlings are most vulnerable. It is best to keep this turtle in a locale within its geographic range. This will make it easier to keep outdoors as the weather conditions and climate will be within the right range.

The painted turtle is considered a species of special concern in Canada and an endangered subspecies. On the IUCN Red List, the entire painted turtle species is considered a species of Least Concern.

Nonnative Turtle that can be kept as a pet

3. Common Box Turtle

Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) walking in grass
Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) walking in grass

The only turtle that can be legally owned in Saskatchewan is the eastern box turtle and the other subspecies within the species (Terrapene carolina).

As you may already know, this species is quite easy to care for and keep. They however do have lengthy lifespans. If you wish to keep one as a pet, it is important to know that this will be a long-term commitment. You can also adopt a captive eastern box turtle.

The subspecies within the species – Terrapene carolina include eastern box turtle (Terrapene c. carolina), Florida box turtle (Terrapene c. bauri), Gulf Coast box turtle (Terrapene c. major), and three-toed box turtle (Terrapene c. triunguis).

The species can be found throughout the united states and Mexico. The turtle is called a box turtle as it can retract fully into its shell and close it off into a box. This is a significant defense against predators. The shell can also regenerate from severe damage.

Although technically a turtle, the T. carolina is terrestrial and can be found in woodlands, grasslands, and marshy meadows. The species may be terrestrial but they can swim and oftentimes live near slow-moving bodies of water.

As mentioned earlier, T. carolina has a lengthy lifespan. The species can live to be over 100 years with a high estimate of 138 years. In captivity, the typical lifespan is 40 years.

The species reach reproductive maturity quite early-latest by 5 years for both males and females. Gravid females lay up to 8 eggs and an average of 4 or 5 eggs.

The species are omnivorous and feed on a wide variety of foods. Juveniles are mostly carnivorous while adults tend to be more herbivorous. Juveniles simply need more protein to grow.

The species eat almost everything including eggs, birds, frogs, slugs, fish, salamanders, snails, insects, berries, flowers, leaves, roots, and even carrion.

The species is considered to be a vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List. this is because the wild populations are on the decline. Since the turtle is not native to Canada, it doesn’t have any special status.

The main cause of decline to the wild populations includes the destruction, fragmentation, and degradation of the natural habitat. Road mortality and the collection of wild individuals for the pet trade also affect the wild populations negatively.

As already mentioned, caring for the common box turtle is relatively easy. First, you need an enclosure. I recommend an outdoor enclosure. The enclosure should be about 4 by 4 feet in dimension with a 1 foot or higher wall.

Ensure that the turtle is protected from predators and harsh weather conditions. Provide adequate temperatures (warm end: 85 to 90 °F, cool temperature: 70 °F) and adequate humidity levels (65%).

The species should be fed a mix of leafy greens and low-fat proteins. Offer brightly colored fruits every now and then. Supplement the diet with calcium powder and feed the turtle using a plate to prevent ingestion of substrate.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many turtle species are native to Saskatchewan?

There are only two turtle species native to Saskatchewan. The two native turtles are the western painted turtle and the snapping turtle.

The western painted turtle is found in the south of Saskatchewan. This turtle can also be found through the south of Canada from British Columbia to Ontario.

The midland painted turtle and the eastern painted turtle can also be found in Canada but not in Saskatchewan.

The snapping turtle is found mostly in eastern Canada. Regardless they can also be found in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. 

Both turtles are illegal to keep as pets.


Saskatchewan is one of the western provinces of Canada it is bored by  Manitoba to the east. Alberta to the west, and the Northwest Territories to the north.

The province is home to diverse aquatic and terrestrial animals. Some famous species in Saskatchewan include the white-tailed deer which is the provincial animal and the sharp-tailed grouse which is the symbol of Saskatchewan.

There are two turtle species native to Saskatchewan and that is snapping turtle and western pained turtle. The population trends of both species are worrying.

As such both species are illegal to keep as pets. The snapping turtle is a species of special concern in Canada. The western painted turtle is considered endangered on Canada’s Pacific Coast and a species of special concern in the rest of Canada.

Other Canadian Provinces

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