Meet Shellbie, a strikingly coloured Midland Painted turtle. The painted turtle is known for their colourful shell, especially the rim of the carapace.. It really does look like someone took a paint brush and added strokes of gold and red to adorn.  Adult painted turtles range from 4 to 6 inches long and the females are larger than the males. The painted turtle has the broadest range of any turtle in North America and there are four subspecies. The eastern, southern,midland and western. In southern and central Ontario we are fortunate to have the midland. These races integrate with each other, they share many behaviours, physical characteristics and have overlapped ranges.

Shellbie’s carapace is smooth and sort of flattened. Her plastron (lower shell) is yellow while yellow and red stripes decorate her head,legs and neck. However, Shellbie’s carapace was damaged. She has a noticeable “V” shaped piece missing, which is large enough to snag on underwater vegetation or upland growth, while she is travelling from one area to another in her home range. Look a little closer and you will see the large fracture that occurred from the accident with the mechanical predator (vehicle). If turtles could talk, I am sure they would call those swift, seemingly unstoppable metal machines as a predator. Shellbie’s injuries have healed, yet they are and will be always visible. They are a reminder of how dangerous life is for turtles.

Shellbie now calls the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre home.  Unfortunately for Shellbie her home range is unknown. Turtles should never be removed from their place of origin. They must always be returned to their natural habitat. Turtle’s brains are hardwired to stay within their home range, where they will bury themselves in nearly the same spot every winter and nest in the same area each late spring or fall, depending on the species.

Shellbie loves to bask,and she would eat a variety of foods in the wild. They would include aquatic insects, tadpoles, fish, snails, slugs, small clams, crayfish, and carrion, not to mention plant foods such as algae, cattail stems, and seeds. At the OTCC, her balanced diet includes worms, greens, and fish. When the weather turns warmer, Shellbie enjoys her time outside in the sunshine where she can snack on insects, snails and cattail stems!

The female midland painted turtle matures at 12-15 years of age. Males mature at 7-10 yrs.

Females nest mainly in June and July. Hatchlings often overwinter in the nest before emerging the following spring. Painted turtle hatchlings are capable of “supercooling” and are freeze-tolerant, which allows them to survive subzero temperatures as low as -10 degrees C.  The gender of the hatchlings are temperature-dependent. Warmer temperatures produce females while the cooler temperatures produce males.  In the spring the male swims around the female in a circle while facing her and sweeps the backs of his long front claws along her head and neck.

Quite the courtship!

Shellbie has settled into life at the OTCC and she has made quite an impression on Andrea, the beautiful Blanding’s turtle. They have become the best of friends, often seen sharing the same basking spot.   Join us for the final piece of the Tale of Two Turtles!

By Wendy Baggs, Education Coordinator