Colorado is home to 473 bird species, 130 mammal species, 69 fish species, 49 reptile species, and 18 amphibian species. So it’s no surprise that you would find some turtles in Colorado as well. There are six species of turtles in Colorado, although only five of them are native to the state. The sixth is considered an invasive species and not a welcome sight in the state since it can harm other native species.
6 Turtles in Colorado
The state of Colorado has only one terrestrial turtle, while the other five species are aquatic or semi-aquatic. Most of the turtles in Colorado share the same or similar habitats and food sources.
Despite these similarities, each turtle species has unique aspects that separate them from the others. Keeping reading to learn more interesting facts about the turtles in Colorado.
1. Painted Turtle
Scientific Name: Chrysemys picta bellii
The Painted turtles are one of the most widespread turtle species found throughout the United States, including in Colorado. Painted turtles are not an aggressive species and are often kept as pets.
They feed on tadpoles, insects, snails, fish, and various insects. Their native habitat is quiet and shallow waters with a muddy bottom.
Painted turtles measure between 5 and 10 inches long. The male of the species is a bit smaller than the female.
Their top shell is dark in color and smooth, and their skin is olive green. One way to distinguish the painted turtle from other species is to look for the red, yellow, or orange stripes on its extremities.
2. Common Snapping Turtle
Scientific Name: Chelydra serpentina
Snapping turtles are large animals that thrive in slow-moving water with a sandy or muddy bottom. As their name suggests, snapping turtles have powerful jaws that will quickly snap close to catch prey, as well as protect them from predators.
Snapping turtles are not overly aggressive, but they are quick to act if they feel threatened. That is why you should always keep your distance when you see a snapping turtle on land or in the water.
Snapping turtles feed on various aquatic plants, insects, fish, small mammals, birds, and amphibians. They have an average lifespan of 10 years, but can live up to 40 years. They spend most of their time in the water, but will go on land during the breeding season.
3. Yellow Mud Turtle
Scientific Name: Kinosternon flavescens
The yellow mud turtle measures between 6 and 7 inches long and has a body and shell with a yellowish hue. They are found throughout the Midwest portion of the United States, including Colorado. This species prefers waters that have a muddy bottom, such as ponds, and will eat a wide array of plants, insects, tadpoles, and crayfish.
4. Ornate Box Turtle
Scientific Name: Terrapene ornata
The Ornate box turtles are the only terrestrial turtles found in the state of Colorado. It is a subspecies of the box turtle, and can be found throughout the state’s Great Plains. They measure about 5 to 7 inches long when mature and have a lifespan of 40 to 60 years.
Ornate box turtles’ main source of food includes insects, but they will also feed on carrion and berries. Unfortunately, due to the pet trade and loss of habitat, the ornate box turtle is listed as threatened.
5. Spiny Softshell Turtle
Scientific Name: Apalone spinifera
The spiny softshell turtle is an aquatic species that is found within the waterways at the eastern margin of the state. They measure between 5 and 20 inches long, and feature a leathery shell that is flat and shaped similar to a pancake. They also have a snort nose that makes it easy to distinguish them from other softshell species.
Spiny softshell turtles have a diet that consists of insects, snails, and small aquatic animals. They have webbed feet, and each foot has three claws.
6. Red-eared Slider
Scientific Name: Trachemys scripta elegans
The red-eared slider is considered an invasive species in Colorado and is mostly seen in artificial ponds and lakes, open spaces, and urban parks. It is theorized that this turtle species was brought to Colorado as pets and when they became too large for their owners to care for, they were released in the wild.
Even though this turtle species is native to the southeastern portions of the United States, it can survive the somewhat brutal Colorado winters. Unfortunately, the red-eared slider is problematic since it can impact Colorado’s native turtles, making them compete for basking sites and food sources.