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9 Types of Turtles in Minnesota (Pictures)

Turtles are fascinating animals that you can find all over the world, and Minnesota is no exception. Several species of turtles call the North Star State home, each with distinct characteristics and adaptations that enable them to flourish in this area.

Turtles in Minnesota can be found in a variety of habitats, and in this article, we’ll delve into their world, show you the different species found in the state, their habitats, and some of their characteristics.

Collage photo turtles in Minnesota

9 Turtles That Live in Minnesota

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most fascinating turtles in Minnesota which include the Blanding’s turtle, False map turtle, Northern map turtle, Ouachita map turtle, Painted turtle, Smooth softshell turtle, Snapping turtle, Spiny softshell turtle, and Wood turtle.

1. Blanding’s turtle 

Blanding’s turtle basking
Blanding’s turtle basking | image by Andrew Cannizzaro via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Emydoidea blandingii
  • Length: 5.9 – 9.88 inches

The Blanding’s turtle is a medium-sized turtle species that can be found in Minnesota. They usually live in shallow wetlands, marshes, and bogs with plenty of aquatic vegetation. Populations of these can be found throughout the state, including the central, southeastern, and southwestern regions. 

The species of these turtles were discovered in the northeastern part of Missouri by an early naturalist named William Blanding, after whom they’re named. Blanding’s Turtles have a dark carapace and a bright yellow chin and throat, and males have thicker tails compared to females. These turtles are known as semi-box turtles because of their hinged plastron, which allows them to close their shells when they feel threatened. 

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 turtle is a type of aquatic turtle living in Minnesota’s large rivers and backwaters. These species are mostly found in central and western Metro areas, as well as some parts of southern Minnesota. They primarily eat fish, snails, and mussels, and are recognized for their impressive swimming abilities. 

You can identify them by their brownish-green shells with darker blotches and yellowish undersides. False map turtles also have a light-colored line behind each eye that extends to the top of their head. 

3. 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 turtle species found in Minnesota named after its shell’s complex map-like design. These animals are usually of medium size and are commonly found in rivers, streams, and lakes in the central to southern regions of the state. 

The turtles have a carnivorous diet that consists of fish, insects, and occasionally plants. Female northern Map Turtles are known to be larger than the males, reaching up to 10 to 11 inches long. 

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 a species of aquatic turtle that can be found in the state of Minnesota, more specifically in the southeast corner of the state. They live in bodies of water such as rivers, streams, and lakes where there is a lot of aquatic vegetation. 

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These turtles are well-known for their basking behavior and you can often see them sunbathing in groups on rocks and logs in the water. Their diet consists of fish, crustaceans, and insects found in their natural habitat. 

5. Painted turtle

Painted turtles
Painted turtles | image: Pixabay.com | Painted Turtles
  • Scientific name: Chrysemys picta
  • Length: 4 – 6 inches
  • Weight: 11 – 18 ounces

The painted turtle is one of the most common and widespread species of freshwater turtle found in the state of Minnesota. They’re found in various aquatic habitats, such as lakes, ponds, and streams, with a slow to moderate current. 

These reptiles have a varied diet, consisting of aquatic plants, insects, and small aquatic animals. Painted turtles are known by this name due to the stunning appearance of the plastron, or undersides of their bodies, which are colored orange and red, and have yellow stripes running down their legs and heads. 

6. 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 is a type of reptile that lives in rivers and streams that have sandy bottoms. These animals can be found in various parts of the metro area, extending to the southeastern region of Minnesota. As carnivores, they consume fish, insects, and crayfish for food. 

Their name comes from the fact that their shells don’t have the hard scutes that other turtle species do. Instead, their shells look like soft leather.

This makes the smooth softshell an excellent swimmer because it enables them to move quickly through the water. They’re also known for their ability to hibernate by burying themselves in the ground, either in sand or mud. 

7. Snapping turtle

Snapping Turtle
Snapping Turtle by Scott from Pixabay
  • Scientific name: Chelydra serpentina
  • Length: 8 – 18 inches
  • Weight: 10 – 35 pounds

The Snapping turtle is one of Minnesota’s most frequently seen turtle species. You’ll find these reptiles in a range of colors, from brown to black, and live in various permanent bodies of water, such as lakes, ponds, bogs, and marshes. Their name comes from their strong jaws and tendency to act aggressively when threatened, which can result in a painful bite. 

Snapping turtles are easily recognizable due to their unique physical features, such as their big head, long tail, and hooked upper jaw. The color of their shells is usually dark brown or black, but sometimes they may look greenish because they’re covered in moss. 

8. Spiny softshell turtle

Eastern spiny softshell
Eastern spiny softshell | image by Peter Paplanus via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Apalone spinifera
  • Length: 9 – 19 inches
  • Weight: up to 33 pounds

The lower half of the state of Minnesota, particularly the west and east central regions, as well as the southern region, has the highest population density of the spiny softshell turtle. You will most likely come across them in rivers and lakes containing sand and mud. 

The spiny softshell turtle is an opportunistic predator, meaning that it’ll eat any animal that it comes across in its environment. The name comes from the leathery exterior of their shell, which resembles that of the smooth softshell turtle but has a row of tiny spiny projections running along the front edge. 

9. Wood turtle

Wood Turtle in the wild
Wood Turtle in the wild | image by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region via Flickr
  • Scientific name: Glyptemys insculpta 
  • Length: 5.5 – 8 inches
  • Weight: 1.5 – 2.5 pounds
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The Wood Turtle is primarily located on the western side of Minnesota and is recognized as one of the most endangered species in the state. You can find them living in fast-moving waters with sandy or gravel bottoms. 

The underside of the neck and the limbs of these turtles have a yellowish color, and their scales have patterns on them that look like the growth rings on a tree, which is how these animals got their names. Studies indicate that wood turtles exhibit intelligence and curiosity, as they’re capable of navigating through a maze to find food, much like rats.