There are over 300 turtle species found across the globe, including freshwater turtles, sea turtles, and tortoises. These species are varied, ranging from carnivorous turtles to reptiles that exclusively eat plants. In total, there are eleven turtle species found in Ohio. In this article we learn more about these turtles and their habits.
11 Turtles Found In Ohio
The turtles found in Ohio are the midland painted turtle, spiny softshell, smooth softshell, eastern musk turtle, pond slider, Ouachita map turtle, northern map turtle, Blanding’s turtle, common snapping turtle, woodland box turtle, and the spotted turtle.
1. Midland Painted Turtle
- Scientific Name: Chrysemys picta marginata
- Length: 2.5 to 10 in
- Weight: 11 to 18 oz
These brightly-colored turtles are the only subspecies of the painted turtle that can be found in Ohio. While it can be spotted throughout the state, it’s most common in northeastern and central Ohio. One of its most distinguishing qualities is the red markings located around the bottom of its shell.
This turtle eats an omnivorous diet that includes tadpoles, earthworms, and algae. It tends to nest near bodies of water and can often be spotted basking in the sun.
2. Spiny Softshell
- Scientific Name: Apalone spinifera
- Length: 5 to 19 in
- Weight: 130 g for males, 26.5 to 33 lbs for females
Many turtles are protected by bony plates, but the spiny softshell has a rubbery shell with a row of small spikes. This turtle is most likely to be found in Ohio’s rivers, where it spends its time in shallow water.
The spiny softshell is an excellent swimmer and is able to stay underwater for long stretches of time without swimming to the surface for air. It’s known to settle at the bottom of the water, where it buries itself in soft sand and mud.
3. Smooth Softshell
- Scientific Name: Apalone mutica
- Length: 4.5 to 14 in
- Weight: 2 to 8 lbs
Like the spiny softshell turtle, the smooth softshell has a soft, rubbery shell. However, its shell is extremely smooth and doesn’t have any spikes. It has irregular markings on its shell, which usually resemble dashes or dots.
In Ohio, this turtle’s presence is limited to the southeastern portion of the state. It’s especially common in the Scioto River, where it spends its time along sandbars.
4. Eastern Musk Turtle
- Scientific Name: Sternotherus odoratus
- Length: 2.0 to 4.5 in
- Weight: 1 to 2 lbs
Also known as the common musk turtle, the eastern musk turtle is able to release a pungent odor from the scent glands along the edge of its shell. This has earned it the nickname “stinkpot!” It can be black, brown, or gray in color and has two yellow strips along the side of its head.
These turtles spend most of their time in the water and often lurk in ponds, lakes, and streams. Females will come out of the water to lay eggs, and turtles may also leave the water in spring and summer so that they can spend time basking in the sun.
5. Pond Slider
- Scientific Name: Trachemys scripta
- Length: 5 to 8 in
- Weight: 6 to 9 oz
These small turtles are often kept as pets, but they can also be found in the waters of Ohio. They’re most common in the southern regions of the state, but some isolated groups of turtles can be found in northern Ohio.
There are several subspecies of pond slider, but the subspecies most commonly seen in Ohio is the red-eared slider, which is considered to be an invasive species. Its most recognizable quality is the small red stripe located on the side of its head.
6. Ouachita Map Turtle
- Scientific Name: Graptemys ouachitensis
- Length: 3.5 to 5.75 in for males, 5 to 10.75 in for females
- Weight: 5 to 13.5 oz for males, 1 to 5 lbs for females
Although the Ouachita map turtle can’t be found in most parts of Ohio, there are populations in the Scioto River. It eats an omnivorous diet, dining on foods like mollusks, insects, and aquatic vegetables.
It has a dark brown or olive shell, with yellow markings behind its eye and below its jaw. Young turtles are known for making sounds as they leave their nests.
7. Northern Map Turtle
- Scientific Name: Graptemys geographica
- Length: 3.5 to 6.25 in for males, 7 to 10.75 in for females
- Weight: 5.3 to 14.1 oz for males, 1.5–5.5 lbs for females
These aquatic turtles can be spotted in many of Ohio’s larger rivers and lakes. They frequently dive deep beneath the surface of the water in search of food, feeding on clams and crayfish.
The Northern map turtle is known for being cautious and is only active during daylight hours. It stays beneath the water’s surface all winter long and doesn’t have to rise to the water’s surface to breathe.
8. Blanding’s Turtle
- Scientific Name: Emydoidea blandingii
- Length: 7 to 10 in
- Weight: 1.75 to 3 lbs
The Blanding’s Turtle can be found in the marshes and damp meadows along Lake Erie. Due to habitat loss, populations have declined in recent years. Ohio currently classifies the turtle as a Species of Special Concern.
This turtle is primarily aquatic, but can be spotted out of the water during the warmer months of the year. It has a bright yellow throat, making it easy to spot the turtle from a distance.
9. Snapping Turtle
- Scientific Name: Chelydra serpentina
- Length: 8 to 14 in
- Weight: 10 to 35 lbs
The snapping turtle is the largest turtle species found in Ohio and can be found throughout the state, especially in brackish or fresh water. It’s known for its powerful jaws, which it uses tear flesh from its prey.
Although the snapping turtle is an omnivore, it primarily feeds on animals, including fish, frogs, and small mammals. When food is scarce, these turtles will act as scavengers and eat carrion.
10. Woodland Box Turtle
- Scientific Name: Terrapene carolina carolina
- Length: 4.5” to 6” inches
- Weight: 1 to 2 lbs
True to their name, these turtles prefer wooded areas and are often found beneath logs or piles of leaves. While they’re dark brown or black in color, they have bright yellow or orange markings that make them stand out.
Although this docile turtle spends most of its time in hiding, they usually emerge after rainfall. Turtles sometimes attempt to cross Ohio’s roadways, which puts them in danger.
11. Spotted Turtle
- Scientific Name: Clemmys guttata
- Length: 3” to 4”
- Weight: 0.5 to 1 lbs
This small, semi-aquatic turtle species is usually found in shallow waters in Northwestern Ohio. It has a smooth, dark-colored shell with bright yellow spots.
Male turtles have tan chins, while female turtles have yellow chins. When the turtle believes it’s under threat, it often dives into the water and stays motionless until the threat is gone.