The painted turtle is the only species of turtle that is native to Idaho. These reptiles have brightly colored necks and limbs with yellow or red lines, which means they live up to their name. They have webbed toes for swimming and a shallow carapace (shell) that is a solid olive or black color, usually with light yellow stripes. They can grow carapaces up to nine inches long; think about that, carrying around your house on your back! If you see one, look for the brightly striped legs and underbody, as these turtles can easily be confused for other non-native turtles that have been introduced to Idaho by humans.
Painted turtles originally dwelled in the northern portion of Idaho, but they have recently been found in western Idaho near waters like the Payette and Boise Rivers, and in eastern Idaho near St. Anthony. They like to live in shallow lakes and ponds, but they will live in slow moving streams and rivers as well. In order to escape being eaten by predators, painted turtles need aquatic vegetation near bodies of water to use as camouflage or cover. They will travel on to land to lay their eggs, but otherwise, painted turtles dwell in water for most of their lives.
These little turtles will eat live or dead plants and insects. They mostly enjoy munching on aquatic insect larvae. Yum!
Painted turtles hibernate underwater in the winter, on muddy floors of lakes and ponds.