Michigan is home to a wide range of wildlife, including several turtle species. With over 3,000 miles of shoreline and thousands of inland lakes, rivers, and wetlands, Michigan provides a wide range of habitats for turtles to thrive. From the common snapping turtle to the endangered Blanding’s turtle, these fascinating reptiles play an important role in Michigan’s ecosystem.
Some turtle species are commonly seen, while others are elusive and require a trained eye to spot. This article discusses the ten turtles species found in Michigan.
Common Michigan turtles and where to find them:
|Species||Preferred Habitat||Region of the State|
|Eastern Box Turtle||Woodlands, grasslands, wetlands||Southern Michigan|
|Common Snapping Turtle||Freshwater: lakes, ponds, rivers||Throughout Michigan|
|Painted Turtle||Freshwater: ponds, lakes, marshes||Throughout Michigan|
|Blanding’s Turtle||Wetlands, marshes, shallow lakes||Lower Peninsula|
|Spotted Turtle||Wetlands, shallow ponds, vernal pools||Southern Lower Peninsula|
|Eastern Musk Turtle||Slow-moving rivers, ponds, lakes||Lower Peninsula|
|Wood Turtle||Forested areas near rivers, streams||Northern Lower Peninsula, Upper Peninsula|
10 Species of Turtles in Michigan
Have a look at this list of some more turtles found in the state of Michigan.
1. Blanding’s Turtle
Scientific Name: Emydoidea blandingii
Blanding’s turtle is a species of freshwater turtle that is native to Michigan. This species is medium-sized, measuring between 7.1 and 10 inches in length. The top of its shell is dome-shaped.
It is black with yellow or light-colored flecks. Its distinguishing feature is its bright yellow chin and neck. They are typically found in wetlands and shallow water areas, and they prefer habitats with soft bottoms and abundant aquatic vegetation.
In Michigan, the Blanding’s turtle is considered endangered and is protected by state law. Unfortunately, habitat loss, degradation, fragmentation, and becoming roadkill are the primary threats to Blanding’s turtle populations in Michigan. Conservation efforts, such as habitat restoration and the construction of turtle crossings, are underway to help protect and recover this endangered species in Michigan.
2. Northern Map Turtle
Scientific Name: Graptemys geographica
The Northern map turtle is a species of turtle found in Michigan and throughout the Great Lakes region. These turtles are named for the intricate map-like pattern on their shells, normally outlined with yellow, tan, or orange. These markings fade as the turtle ages.
Northern map turtles are usually found in streams, rivers, and other bodies of water with strong currents. They have long tails and large, powerful claws that they use to cling to rocks and other surfaces in fast-moving water. In Michigan, Northern map turtles are common in the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair areas.
The females of this species are significantly bigger than the males. The females grow up to almost 11 inches long and weigh up to 5.5 pounds, while the males only grow up to 6.3 inches and weigh less than a pound.
3. Eastern Musk Turtle
Scientific Name: Sternotherus odoratus
Also known as the stinkpot turtle, the Eastern musk turtle releases a funky, musky odor from scent glands on the edge of its shell. It is thought they use this to deter predators. Easter musk turtles are usually found in shallow waters with muddy bottoms and slow currents.
These turtles typically have a dark brown or black shell and skin, with two distinct stripes running down the length of their necks. They have small, webbed feet that help them move swiftly in the water, and their shells can grow to be around 4-5 inches in length. Unfortunately, these turtles nest on land and are often found dead on the road during nesting season, killed by vehicles while trying to get to a nesting area.
4. Common Snapping Turtle
Scientific Name: Chelydra serpentina
The common snapping turtle is a large freshwater turtle with a rough, dark brown or black shell, powerful jaws, and a distinctive hooked beak that they use to catch their prey. They can grow to be quite large, with some individuals reaching up to 18 inches in length and weighing over 35 pounds.
Unlike many other turtle species, the males are larger than the females. Common snapping turtles are typically found in slow-moving streams, lakes, and wetlands.
5. Eastern Box Turtle
Scientific Name: Terrapene carolina carolina
The Eastern box turtle has a high, dome-shaped shell with a hinge in the front. When threatened, the turtle can pull its legs and head into the shell and close the hinge, completely “boxing” the turtle inside its shell. Their shells and skin are usually brown or black with yellow or orange patterns.
Females have brown eyes, while males have red eyes. Though not a tortoise, the Eastern box turtle is primarily terrestrial, meaning it spends much of its time on land.
6. Painted Turtle
Scientific Name: Chrysemys picta
The painted turtle is the widespread turtle species in North America, so it’s no surprise that they are a common site in Michigan as well. These turtles grow to between 5 and 10 inches, with males being smaller than females.
Their shell is dark and smooth on top, and they have olive or black skin with red, orange, or yellow markings. They have webbed feet that allow them to swim easily, and they are commonly found in ponds, lakes, and slow-moving streams with plenty of vegetation.
7. Red-Eared Slider
Scientific Name: Trachemys scripta elegans
Although not native to Michigan, the red-eared slider can now commonly be found in the state due to pet releases. This turtle quickly slides into the water when bothered, which is where it gets its name.
You can find these aquatic turtles in lakes, rivers, and ponds throughout the state. They can often be found basking in the sun on the banks or logs.
8. Spiny Softshell Turtle
Scientific Name: Apalone spinifera
The spiny softshell turtle has a smooth, flattened, olive or brown shell with a distinctive flexible edge and leathery skin that is covered in small spines. They have long, narrow noses and webbed feet and are commonly found in large rivers, lakes, and other large bodies of water with sandy or gravelly bottoms. Spiny softshell turtles eat a variety of food, including fish, crayfish, and other aquatic invertebrates.
They are known to bask on sandbars and other sun-exposed surfaces. Spiny softshell turtles are a relatively rare species in Michigan, but if you’re lucky, you can catch a glimpse of one in the western part of the state.
9. Spotted Turtle
Scientific Name: Clemmys guttata
As the name suggests, the spotted turtle has a dark shell with tiny yellow spots on it. Their skin is typically dark with yellow or orange spots as well. Their bellies are yellow or orangeish in color, and there is one black spot on each section.
You can find this species throughout most of the lower peninsula in Michigan. Spotted turtles prefer swamps, bogs, woodland streams, and marshes, as well as brackish streams. This species is threatened by habitat destruction and other facts and is legally protected in Michigan.
10. Wood Turtle
Scientific Name: Glyptemys insculpta
The wood turtle is a threatened species in Michigan and can be found in small numbers in select parts of the state. These turtles have a unique and beautiful appearance, with a smooth brown shell adorned with vibrant yellow and orange markings. Wood turtles are primarily terrestrial, spending much of their time on land in wooded areas near rivers, streams, and other bodies of water.
They have a varied diet, consisting of insects, worms, snails, fruits, and even small mammals. In Michigan, wood turtles face threats such as habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation due to human activity, as well as predation from non-native species.
It is important to protect these turtles and their habitats to ensure their survival in Michigan. Efforts such as habitat restoration and conservation, as well as public education, can help increase awareness and support for wood turtle conservation in Michigan.