Painted turtles are among the first we see in the spring. Even before the ice is completely gone from the surface of the marsh we see them on logs during the day when the sun is out. They’ve been in the marsh all winter but they’ve been out of sight, buried in the mud of the marsh bottom.
Turtles are among the oldest of animals. There were turtles on earth when dinosaurs lived. Individual turtles also live to be very old as determined by counting lines in a shell, somewhat like rings in the trunk of a tree, or by makings on the shell. One turtle marked on the shell lived 138 years.
Turtles, tortoises and terrapins are all similar, all shelled, slow moving critters. They wary in size and from the little two or three inch one sold in pet stores to the giant leatherback, a sea turtle with a length of six to eight feet and a weight of 1,600 pounds, perhaps even as much as a ton. The biggest land turtles of North America are the snapping turtle and the alligator snapping turtle. The record for a snapper, according to Conant, is nearly 20 inches with a weight of 86 pounds. The record for an alligator snapper is 26 inches with a weight of 219 pounds.
Turtles which might be seen in northern Indiana, in addition to painted and snapping, are spotted, map, Blanding’s, which is endangered, box, spiny softshell, and stinkpot, which is also called mush turtle and stinking jim. I’ve seen painted and snapping, spotted and box and one softshell which was a painful experience. Friends brought me that turtle and I picked if up with a hand on each side, like I had snappers. A softshell has a long neck however, long enough that it reached around and bit me.