Know your Michigan turtles

Posing Painted Turtle

I’m Posing for the Camera, photo by capcbd

It appears the turtle above is aware that Michigan’s state reptile is the painted turtle.

I thought it perfect for my day-late post celebrating World Turtle Day (May 23), an annual day of recognition that was started in 2000 by American Tortoise Rescue. They offer some tips to help preserve endangered turtles worldwide including not buying turtles or tortoises from pet shop (it increases demand from the wild), not removing turtles from the wild unless they are injured, and something that we can all do when we’re on the roads: if a turtle is crossing a busy street, pick it up and send it in the same direction it was going – if you try to make it go back, it will turn right around again!

It might surprise you to learn that Michigan is home to 10 native turtle species. Learn about all of them on Michigan in Pictures:

If you’re trying to identify a turtle you’ve found, Check out Nick Scobel’s Herping Michigan Blog and James Harding “The Critter Guy” at the MSU museum has a great Michigan turtle identification guide and loads of turtle lore.

Speaking of Turtle Lore, I always like to shout out a book I read as a kid that did more to foster my love of Michigan than any other: Lore of the Great Turtle. It was filled with Indian tales of Mackinac Island , and one of these was the formation of the island. While this version adapted by Basil Johnston is not quite the same, I think you’ll enjoy it!

Check this photo out background bigtacular and see more in capcbd’s water slideshow.

Also check out more turtles on Michigan in Pictures and definitely have a look at the turtle slideshow from the Absolute Michigan pool on Flickr!

PS: This is one of the most popular posts on Michigan in Pictures. Hooray for turtles!

33 thoughts on “Know your Michigan turtles

  1. There are no Tortoises in Michigan are there?, or any turtles that are more correctly referred to as a tortoise, I was under the impression that was a term reserved for more tropical species of more considerable size.


    1. I don’t believe there are Gregg. The reference to “tortoise” is only for American Tortoise Rescue.

      In other news & oddly enough, this post is getting 100-200 visitors a day so expect more turtle pics!


  2. Yes of course we have tortoise’s in Michigan. Quite large ones too and I don’t mean in the U.P. I grew up in the Detroit metro area and have seen huge ones while hiking. Also tortoise is not a “tropical” reference. It’s quite simply a land turtle. Great site by the way!


      1. HI, It’s been bugging me since 1984-86; as I was a kid in Charlevoix, me and a friend were out hikinh to a favorite fishing spot near “Irish Boatyard” or so, and on a side path that took us to the creek, we came across a 2-3 feet high tortoise that hissed at us frighteningly (we were only 12-13 at the time), and we hightailed it outta there. So, are there shelled amphibians of unusual size there or not? I didn’t start doing drugs until I was 15, and don’t believe I hallucinated it, it’s simply too vivid!


  3. Please help me identify a creature I saw one nite…It crossed a paved street and went under a parked car in my sisters driveway. I had just walked out her front door, standing on a small porch, when I spotted it. It appeared as if it was an old German helmet, but crawling!! I froze as I watched it come up the driveway, watching it crawl up the drive and go under the car,about 20 ft. away. It saw me, and turned around and ran back down the drive into the street. Up the far curb, across the neighbors lawn and into their bushes! I started to run after it because I wanted to see what it was. But the SPEED this thing was moving amazed me!! I knew there was no way I could keep up with it!! It moved WAY faster than I could run! And, I don’t consider my self slow!! So, I went back in the house and told my sister about it. She said my nephew has seen it too!! Well, I always thought turtles were slow on the ground, but now I think not!! They can move like greased lightning when they want to!! What say you about this encounter???

    Liked by 1 person

  4. looked this up today, I live in Livingston County, MI and I swear driving yesterday in my neighborhood going about 15 mph I saw a Spiny Soft-shell Turtle. Had to look it up, but i noticed the elongated nose, my wife jokingly said it looked like an elephant. First one I’ve ever seen around my part of town, its normally the snapper or box


  5. what should I do… I was gifted a baby alligator snapping turtle here in Michigan and as far as I know they are not a native species. I don’t want to keep it as a pet either because of the commitment.


  6. amazing reading and as I am and have been for many years noting all these comments from Stockport England UK I thought that Tortoise was only a term used on this side of the pond and that all Turtles were in fact tiny ones in peoples fish tanks and small garden ponds we have here in England that you purchased from our pet shops here anyway.Maybe someone can put me right about that at 72 years old I dont want find out I have been telling my Children and Grandkids the wrong answer to their questions.Thanx in anticipation. you can text me direct or put it in a bulletin from Michigan in Pictures


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