The Complete List of All 13 Turtles Found in Pennsylvania

Eastern Painted Turtle
Jay Ondreicka/Shutterstock.com

Written by Deniz Martinez

Updated: January 14, 2024

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Turtles are any of over 350 living species of reptiles in the order Testudines. Pennsylvania is home to 12 native turtle species, along with at least one invasive species. Read on to find out what turtles are found in the Keystone State, where they live, and their current conservation status.

1. Blanding’s Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii)

Status in PA: Candidate Species

Female Blanding's Turtle

Blanding’s turtle grows to between 6 – 11 in (15 – 28 cm) in length.

Blanding’s turtle is a medium-sized semi-aquatic species. They inhabit wetlands including wet meadows, marshes, poorly drained lowlands, ponds, and slow-moving streams. This is the rarest turtle in Pennsylvania, currently only known to occur around Lake Erie. The species is also listed as globally Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

2. Bog Turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii)

Status in PA: Endangered Species

Bog Turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii)

The bog turtle grows to between 3 – 4 in (7.6 – 10 cm) in length.

The bog turtle is a small aquatic species. They inhabit bogs and wet meadows dominated by tussock sedges and grasses. They are primarily found in the state’s southeastern region. While there are also historical records of a second smaller population in the northwestern corner of the state, they are now likely expirated there.

3. Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus)

Status in PA: Abundant

Stinkpot Turtle, AKA Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus)

The eastern musk turtle grows to between 2 – 5 in (5.1 – 11.5 cm) in length.

The common musk turtle, also known as the eastern musk turtle or stinkpot turtle, is a small aquatic species. The name references their odorous defense system: they can secrete a foul-smelling, yellowish fluid from musk glands under the upper shell when disturbed! They inhabit still or slow-moving shallow aquatic systems with soft muddy bottoms, including small rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, canals, and marshes. In Pennsylvania, they occur in two disjunct populations: both a smaller one in the northwest corner of the state and a larger one across the southeastern region.

4. Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)

Status in PA: Abundant

The common snapping turtle grows to between 8 – 18.5 in (20 – 47 cm) in length.

The common snapping turtle is a large aquatic species. They can inhabit nearly any sort of freshwater habitat, though they tend to prefer still or slow-moving water bodies with soft bottoms and at least some vegetation. This hardy and adaptable turtle is widespread across the state.

5. Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina)

Status in PA: Species of Special Concern

Eastern box turtle , New Jersey, USA

The eastern

box turtle

grows to between 5 – 8 in (12.7 – 20 cm) in length.

The eastern box turtle is a small terrestrial subspecies. They primarily inhabit woodlands but can also be found traversing open areas as well. They range across much of the state, though they are absent from most of the northernmost tier.

6. Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera spinifera)

Status in PA: Species of Special Concern

Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera spinifera)

The eastern spiny softshell turtle grows to between 7 – 17 in (18 – 43.2 cm) in length.

The eastern spiny softshell turtle is a medium to large aquatic subspecies. They prefer larger water bodies with either muddy or sandy bottoms, including lakes, rivers, ponds, and streams. While historically occurring primarily in the western region of the state, recent surveys have found them expanding their range across eastern areas as well.

Note: A second species of softshell turtle, the smooth softshell turtle (Apalone mutica), also once inhabited portions of western Pennsylvania as part of the easternmost edge of their historical range, but is likely now extirpated from the state.

7. Northern Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica)

Status in PA: Species of Special Concern

Northern Map Turtles resting on a rock in the sunshine on Buck Lake, Ontario, Canada

The northern map turtle grows to between  7.5 – 10.8 in (9 – 27.3 cm) in length.

The northern map turtle is a medium-sized aquatic species. They primarily inhabit large, slow-moving rivers and lakes. They have a patchy distribution across much of the state, including areas around Lake Erie, the Ohio River Drainage, the Susquehanna River Basin, and the Delaware River Basin, while notably absent from much of the central Allegheny Plateau.

8. Northern Red-Bellied Cooter (Pseudemys rubriventris rubriventris)

Status in PA: Threatened Species

A large female northern red-bellied cooter turtle looking straight at the viewer while basking on a log sticking out of a duck weed filled pond

The northern red-bellied cooter grows to between 10 – 12.5 in (25.4 – 32 cm) in length.

The northern red-bellied cooter, also known as the eastern redbelly turtle, is a large aquatic subspecies. They inhabit larger, deeper water bodies with abundant basking sites, including large rivers, creeks, lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. They are primarily found in the southeastern region of the state.

9. Painted Turtle (Eastern Painted Turtle Chrysemys picta picta & Midland Painted Turtle Chrysemys picta marginata)

Status in PA: Abundant

Midland Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta marginata) Basking on a Log - Old Ausable Channel, Pinery Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

The painted turtle grows to between 4.5 – 8 in (10 – 18 cm) in length.

The painted turtle is a medium to large aquatic species. They inhabit a variety of still or slow-moving water bodies with sunny basking sites, including small lakes and rivers, streams, ponds, and canals. Pennsylvania is home to both the eastern painted turtle and the midland painted turtle subspecies. They are closely related enough to produce fertile hybrids, creating an intergrade across much of their shared range. Only painted turtles in the westernmost region of the state are likely midland painted turtles, while those across the rest of the state are more likely either eastern painted turtles or intergrades.

10. Southeastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum subrubrum)

Status in PA: Endangered Species

Eastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon Subrubrum)

The southeastern mud turtle grows to between 3 – 5 inches (7 – 10 cm) in length.

The southeastern mud turtle is a small aquatic subspecies. They prefer still or slow-moving shallow water with soft muddy substrate and plenty of aquatic vegetation. As its name suggests, their range in Pennsylvania is restricted to the southeastern corner of the state.

11. Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata)

Status in PA: Species of Special Concern

Spotted Turtle

The spotted turtle grows to between 3.5 – 4.5 in (9 – 11.5 cm) in length.

The spotted turtle is a small aquatic species. They inhabit a variety of low-elevation wetlands, preferring shallow, soft-bottomed aquatic habitats. They are widespread across both eastern and western regions of the state, though are absent from most of the Allegheny Plateau and Allegheny Mountains.

12. Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta)

Status in PA: Species of Special Concern

Wood Turtle

The wood turtle grows to between 6 – 8 in (15 – 20 cm) in length.

The wood turtle is a medium-sized semi-aquatic species. They inhabit a variety of terrestrial habitats near flowing water, including open meadows, bogs, fields, and forests. They occur nearly statewide, only absent from the extreme southwestern corner of the state.

13. Invasive Turtles in PA: Pond Sliders (Red-Eared Slider Trachemys scripta elegans & Yellow-Bellied Slider Trachemys scripta scripta)

Types of pond turtles - Red-Eared Slider

The pond slider can grow to a length of up to 12 in (30 cm).

The pond slider is a freshwater species native to the Southern United States. However, it is also a popular pet turtle, and unfortunately, many have been released into waters outside their native range when they are no longer wanted. They have thus become invasive in many states, including Pennsylvania, where they can pose a serious threat to native species as they outcompete them for food and space. Both the red-eared slider and the yellow-bellied slider subspecies have been documented in the state.

Summary of “The Complete List of All 13 Turtles Found in Pennsylvania”

TurtleStatus in PARange in PA
1. Blanding’s Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii)Candidate Speciesrare, Lake Erie area
2. Bog Turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii)Endangered SpeciesSE region
3. Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus)AbundantNW corner, SE region
4. Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)Abundantstatewide
5. Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina)Species of Special Concernmost of state, absent from much of N tier
6. Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera spinifera)Species of Special ConcernW region, expanding into E region
7. Northern Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica)Species of Special Concernpatchy distribution in major river & lake systems across state, absent from much of central Allegheny Plateau
8. Northern Red-Bellied Cooter (Pseudemys rubriventris rubriventris)Threatened Speciesprimarily SE region
9. Painted Turtle (Eastern Painted Turtle Chrysemys picta picta & Midland Painted Turtle Chrysemys picta marginata)Abundantstatewide
10. Southeastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum subrubrum)Endangered SpeciesSE corner
11. Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata)Species of Special ConcernE & W regions, absent from most of Allegheny Plateau & Allegheny Mountains
12. Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta)Species of Special Concernstatewide except SW corner
13. Pond Slider (Red-Eared Slider Trachemys scripta elegans & Yellow-Bellied Slider Trachemys scripta scipta)Invasivespreading statewide
SOURCES: PA FBC, PA Herps, PARS, PNHP


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About the Author

Deniz Martinez is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on biogeography, ornithology, and mammalogy. Deniz has been researching, teaching, and writing about animals for over 10 years and holds both an MS degree from American Public University earned in 2016 and an MA degree from Lindenwood University earned in 2022. A resident of Pennsylvania, Deniz also runs Art History Animalia, a website and associated social media dedicated to investigating intersections of natural history with art & visual culture history via exploring animal iconography.

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