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12 Species of Turtles in Indiana (With Pictures)

Although Indiana isn’t typically associated with turtles, the state boasts a range of turtle species that flourish in its varied environments. Turtles in Indiana can be found in various environments, ranging from the wetlands in the northwest to the grasslands in the south.

These habitats offer ideal living conditions for the reptiles to breed, hunt for food, and thrive. Let’s delve into the fascinating lives of some of these resilient animals as they make their way through lush wetlands, calm rivers, and sparkling lakes of the state. 

12 Turtles in Indiana

1. Smooth softshell

Smooth softshell turtle
Smooth softshell turtle | image by Don F Becker via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0
  • Scientific name: Apalone mutica
  • Length: 4.5 – 14 inches
  • Weight: up to 33 pounds

The Smooth softshell turtle is a freshwater reptile that lives in Indiana’s rivers and lakes with sandy bottoms. They’re frequently seen along the Blue, Wabash, and Ohio River drainages, and their diet typically consists of small fish, crustaceans, and aquatic insects.

 The smooth softshell turtle’s shell is grayish in males and brownish in females. Their shells are also distinct from those of other turtles in that they have a smooth, leathery texture. 

2. False map turtle

False map turtle
False map turtle | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Graptemys pseudogeographica
  • Length: 3.5 – 10.75 inches
  • Weight: 2.5 – 4 pounds

The False Map turtles are often found in the vast streams of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, including northern Indiana. Their name comes from the fact that they have a dark, patterned shell that looks like a map.

 Additionally, their shell is keeled and these reptiles have yellow lines on their head, neck, and legs. The False Map turtle is characterized by a yellow “L” mark behind its eye that faces backward and narrow yellow stripes on its neck that touch the edge of each eye.

3. Ornate box turtle

Ornate box turtle on grass
Ornate box turtle on grass | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Terrapene ornata 
  • Length: 4 – 5 inches
  • Weight: 198 – 538 g

The Ornate Box turtle is a type of land turtle that lives in the grasslands and prairies of southern Indiana. They prefer open areas with plenty of cover and loose soil for burrowing, especially in the winter. The Ornate Box turtle can retreat into its shell and completely close it off for protection. 

This is due to their hinged lower shell, which helps them protect themselves from predators. Their colorful shell with yellow lines from the center to the edges makes them easily distinguishable from other turtles.

4. Ouachita map turtle

Ouachita map turtle
Ouachita map turtle | image by smashtonlee05 via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Graptemys ouachitensis
  • Length: 3.5 – 10.25 inches
  • Weight: no specific numbers, but males are much smaller than females

The Ouachita Map turtle is one of the map turtle species that can be found in the Ohio River area, extending to eastern Indiana. These map turtles inhabit large rivers and lakes with plenty of aquatic vegetation.

They feed on a diverse range of aquatic invertebrates, fish, and insects in these areas. One way to recognize them is by the dark, raised keel that runs down the center of their shells, as well as the large, yellowish rectangular or oval patch located behind their eye.

5. Snapping turtle

Snapping Turtle
Snapping Turtle by Scott from Pixabay
  • Scientific name: Chelydra serpentina
  • Length: 8 – 18 inches
  • Weight: 10 – 35 pounds
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The freshwater reptile known as the snapping turtle can be found in Indiana’s streams, rivers, and marshes. They’re one of the turtle species that are commonly found throughout the state.

Snapping turtles typically have a muscular build and a large, rugged shell that’s commonly brown or black in color. One of their distinguishing features from other turtles is their long tail and strong jaws, which are capable of inflicting a painful bite.

6. Northern map turtle

Northern map turtle
Northern map turtle | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Graptemys geographica
  • Length: 3.5 – 10.75 inches
  • Weight: 1.5 – 5.5 pounds

The Northern Map turtle is one of the reptile species that can be found in the ponds, rivers, and lakes of Indiana. These species have olive to dark brown skin with yellow or greenish markings, similar to other map turtles. However, these northern species have yellow or creamy plastrons that are uniform in color, in contrast to other map turtles that have blotchy plastrons. 

7. River cooter

River cooter turtle
River cooter turtle | image by David Hill via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Pseudemys concinna
  • Length: 9 – 12 inches
  • Weight: 8 – 11 pounds

In Indiana, you can find river cooters in rivers, streams, and bodies of water that have lots of aquatic vegetation and rocky bottoms. Typically, they have a brown to black shell with orangish-yellow markings on their scutes. 

River cooters are unique among turtles because they primarily eat plants, such as grasses and algae. However, younger turtles need more protein, so you might notice them consuming fish, crustaceans, and aquatic invertebrates.

8. Eastern mud turtle 

Eastern mud turtle 
Eastern mud turtle | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Kinosternon subrubrum
  • Length: 3 – 4 inches
  • Weight: 10 – 35 pounds

The Eastern mud turtles are small animals that inhabit the southwestern regions of the state. These mud turtles are identified by their smooth, oval-shaped shells that come in a variety of colors ranging from yellow to black. They may have markings on their skin, and unlike most turtles, they have 11 marginal plates instead of 12

9. Spotted turtle 

Spotted turtle 
Spotted turtle  | image by Bernard DUPONT via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific name: Clemmys guttata
  • Length: 3.5 – 5 inches
  • Weight: ½ to ¾ pounds

The Spotted Turtle is a small, semi-aquatic reptile species that can be found in the eastern United States, including Indiana. You can find them in a range of wetland habitats, including bogs, marshes, and swamps.

This creature can be identified by its distinctive black shell that’s speckled with small, bright yellow spots. Its skin is gray or black, and its head, legs, and tail are all black with yellow spots. 

10. Eastern musk turtle

Eastern musk turtle
Eastern musk turtle | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Sternotherus odoratus
  • Length: 2 – 4.5 inches
  • Weight: 1 – 2 pounds

The Eastern musk turtle is a tiny reptile species that’s native to Indiana. Their carapace ranges from light olive brown to black, and they release a musky odor as a way to protect themselves.

 In Indiana, they inhabit slow-moving and shallow water bodies, like ponds and marshes. These creatures tend to keep to themselves and stay hidden under debris and vegetation and mostly eat aquatic invertebrates but sometimes consume plant material.

11. Red-eared slider

Red-eared slider
Red-eared slider | image by hedera.baltica via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific name: Trachemys scripta elegans 
  • Length: 15 – 30 cm
  • Weight: up to 240 g

The Red-eared slider is a type of aquatic turtle that’s typically medium-sized. It’s native to the Mississippi Valley and can also be found in Indiana.

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Their name comes from the distinct red patch that you can find behind each of their eyes. They’re omnivores, eating everything from aquatic plants to small fish to carrion or dead animals, and their shells range in color from olive to brown with yellow stripes. 

12. Eastern spiny softshell

Eastern spiny softshell
Eastern spiny softshell | image by Peter Paplanus via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Apalone spinifera spinifera
  • Length: up to 21 inches
  • Weight: up to 25 pounds

The Eastern spiny softshell turtle is a freshwater species that can be found in Indiana and many states in the eastern half of the country. While actually quite elusive, it’s actually one of the most commonly found turtles in the state. It has a dark, mottled coloration ranging from olive to brown, and a leathery, flexible carapace covered with small spines along the front edge.

 In Indiana, they can be found in different types of water bodies, such as rivers, lakes, and ponds. The Eastern spiny softshell are known for their aquatic lifestyle and fast swimming abilities, as they spend the majority of their time in the water.