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17 Vibrant Turtles in Indiana

There are 17 turtle species in Indiana. They range from the large and frightening looking Alligator Snapping turtle, to the small, and endangered Spotted turtle. Indiana even has 2 species of terrestrial turtles such as the Ornate Box turtle.

While you are out in the forests, grasslands, or rivers of Indiana, keep your eyes out as you may see some of these amazing reptiles. Just know that it’s illegal to take or sell wild-caught turtles in the Hoosier State.

If you’re in the market for a pet turtle, look for a reputable captive bred breeder, or licensed pet store. Now let’s find out about all these wonderful turtles living in Indiana.

Turtles in Indiana

1. Spotted Turtle

Spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata) in the wild
Spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata) in the wild
  • Experience Level: Intermediate to Expert
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Clemmys guttata
  • Other Names: Polka-dot turtle, “Spotty”
  • Adult Size: 4 to 5 inches
  • Life Span: Males up to 65 years; females up to 110 years
  • Average Price Range: $200 to $300
  • Conservation Status: Endangered

The Spotted turtle is a semi-aquatic species, so they spend most of their lives in marshes, swamps, lakes, and wet meadows. As you probably guessed, the Spotted turtle has plenty of yellow spots on their shells and body.

The carapace (that’s what the upper part of the shell is called) is dark brown or black and can be completely spotless or have up to 100 spots that look like paint drops. The plastron (the bottom part of the shell) is tan to yellow and has black markings.

They are both endangered, one of the smallest turtle species in the U.S. Their size can reach up to 5 inches. Illegal poaching for the pet trade is one of the factors leading to their decline, and so is habitat destruction.

Spotted turtles are omnivores that eat a wide variety of plant and animal matter. They will eat things like worms, spiders, caterpillars, and other land dwelling invertebrates, but they will only feed underwater. 

It’s assumed that when they find something to eat on land, they take it to the water to swallow it. Some turtles have to use water to help them swallow because their tongue does not move and can’t aid in getting the food down.

Softshell Turtles in Indiana

2. Spiny Softshell Turtle

Juvenile Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera) on riverbed
Juvenile Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera) on riverbed
  • Experience Level: Intermediate to Expert
  • Family: Trionychidae
  • Scientific Name: Apalone spinifera
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 5 to 9 ½ inches for males, 10 to 20 inches for females
  • Life Span: Between 20 and 50 years
  • Average Price Range: Between $20 and $120
  • Conservation Status: Threatened in some areas

This species is one of the largest freshwater turtles in North America, they can reach lengths up to 20 inches long. When measuring the length of turtles, people measure the carapace from front to back. I imagine it’s difficult to measure the entire length of the turtle when it refuses to stick its neck out.

The Spiny Softshell Turtle has fleshy, cone-like bumps on the upper shell that sometimes spread halfway down the carapace. They feel like rubbery sandpaper, but if you get close to them they will become aggressive. 

Softshell turtles know they don’t have much protection from predators, so they make up for that with a bad attitude. They have long, sharp claws and a beak that can cut through the skin. They also have a long neck that can reach up to half their shell length.

Spiny Softshell turtles are usually tan, olive, or dark brown with spots or circles on the carapace. These markings tend to fade over time, and the turtle darkens as they age.

Their head is distinctive because they have a single stripe on either side that runs from the long, tapered snout.

You may find these turtles in rivers, lakes, streams, or ponds that have muddy or sandy bottoms as they like to hide in the substrate and wait for food to come swimming by.

They are mostly carnivorous; eating insects, fish, crayfish, mollusks, tadpoles, and frogs, but they will occasionally eat some aquatic vegetation.

3. Midland Smooth Softshell

Group of 3 midland softshell turtles (Apalone Mutica) resting on the water bank basking
Group of 3 midland softshell turtles (Apalone Mutica) resting on the water bank basking – source
  • Experience level: Intermediate
  • Family: Trionychidae
  • Scientific Name: Apalone Mutica
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Average Adult Size: 5 – 14 inches
  • Life Span: 10 – 20 years
  • Average Price Range: $50 – $150
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Slightly smaller than the Spiny Softshell turtle, these turtles have the same, floppy carapace, but without the nodules. The coloration of this turtle ranges from yellowish, brown, or olive-green with a lighter colored skin.

Most Softshell female softshell turtles are much larger than males. Females at full maturity can reach up to 14 inches in length, while the much smaller males only reach about 5 to 7 inches in length.

These turtles are surprisingly fast on land as well as in the water. They need to be in order to get away from predators.

Midland Smooth Softshell turtles can be found in clean, clean streams and rivers with sandy, not rocky bottoms.

They too are mostly carnivorous, feeding mainly on fish, insects, and crayfish. 

Snapping Turtles in Indiana

4. Common Snapping Turtle

Common snapping turtle walking in park
Common snapping turtle walking in park
  • Experience level: Intermediate to Expert
  • Family: Chelydrida
  • Scientific Name: Chelydra Serpentina
  • Other Names: Snapping Turtle, Snapper, Eastern Snapping Turtle
  • Average Adult Size: 8 to 20 inches
  • Life Span: 30 – 50 years
  • Average Price Range: Approximately $40 to $120
  • Conservation Status: Least concern

The Common Snapping Turtle has a ridged, dark colored carapace and a very small plastron. They are instantly recognizable as they get quite large and have oversized limbs, a long tail, a wide head, and a serpentine neck.

They spend so much time at the bottom of the water their shells are often covered in mud and/or algae.

While they spend most of their time in lakes, swamps, rivers, and other bodies of water with muddy bottoms, you may find them on the land. They leave the water to find proper nesting spots, or to seek a different home.

When confronted the snapping turtle will draw its head in and display its large mouth while hissing a warning. If they are still bothered they can strike very quickly and deliver a very painful bite. They also have thick claws they can use for defense.

There are reports of these large turtles gulping down ducklings and other waterfowl, but this only happens very rarely. Adult snappers that are large enough to eat these birds, mostly sit at the bottom of the water and wait for food to come to them. 

They don’t expend a lot of energy chasing anything. They eat mostly fish, crayfish, frogs, and other amphibians, and some carrion.

5. Alligator Snapping Turtle

Side view of an Alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii) on a gravel path
Side view of an Alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii) on a gravel path
  • Experience level: Expert
  • Family: Chelydrida
  • Scientific Name: Macrochelys temminckii
  • Common Name: Loggerhead Snapper
  • Average Adult Size: 13-30 inches
  • Life Span: 30 – 50 years
  • Average Price Range: Approximately $50 to $300
  • Conservation Status: Least concern

The Alligator Snapping Turtle has black or dark brown with fleshy, spiky protrusions all over giving it a very prehistoric look. Their shell is also spiked and they are the largest freshwater turtles found in North America.

Their limbs are thick and round. The tail is very long and covered in hard, thick scales. This turtle has a broad, rounded head and will hiss and threaten to bite just like the Common Snapping turtle. 

Alligator Snapping turtles have a very strong bite force—up to 1,000 pounds. You should never try to handle these huge turtles in the wild.

They are incredibly rare in Indiana, so you may never see them in the wild. Although there is talk of reintroducing them into Indiana’s waters.

Alligator Snapping turtles like to hang out in slow moving streams, lakes, oxbows, swamps, and large ponds with muddy bottoms. Here they stay at the bottom with their cavernous mouths open while they wiggle a fleshy, pink projection on their tongue.

It resembles a worm laying on the water floor, so fish and other aquatic animals may swim in for a closer look. When they do…SLAM! The Alligator Snapping turtle strikes out and clamps down on the fish and swallows it whole, or takes a massive bite out of it.

6. Blanding’s Turtle

Blandings turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) basking on a downed tree in pond
Blandings turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) basking on a downed tree in pond
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Emydoidea blandingii
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 5 to 8 inches (12.5 to 20 cm)
  • Life Span: Up to 80 years
  • Average Price Range: $300 to $450
  • Conservation Status: Endangered

The Blanding’s Turtle is a very interesting species. It can live for several decades, and scientists have a hard time finding out how long it can actually live because of its very long lifespan.

Unlike every other living creature on the planet, the Blanding’s turtle doesn’t seem to exhibit signs of old age. They can still mate and reproduce at 80 years old and beyond. 

They are medium sized turtles but are very endangered. Because of road mortalities and wetland development and fragmentation, the populations of these turtles are declining. They are also poached for the pet trade because they are popular among some collectors.

These turtles have a distinctive bright yellow chin and neck. Their domed carapace is dark brown or black and has pale yellow markings that can be spotted or lined.

They prefer shallow marshes, bogs, creeks, and wet prairies with plenty of vegetation. Here they wander around the vegetation looking for crayfish, frogs, small fish, and vegetation such as algae and duckweed.

Musk Turtles in Indiana

7. Eastern Musk Turtle

Common musk turtle (Sternotherus odoratus) in aquarium tank
Common musk turtle (Sternotherus odoratus) in aquarium tank
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Kinosternidae
  • Scientific Name: Sternotherus odoratus
  • Other Names: Common Musk turtle, Stinkpot
  • Adult Size: 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12.5 cm)
  • Life Span: 30 to 50 years
  • Average Price Range: $30 to $120
  • Conservation Status: Least concern

The Eastern, or sometimes called the Common Musk turtle is a small turtle with an oval shaped, domed carapace. They are drably colored with very few markings. The most distinct pattern is the pair of white stripes that run from the pointed snout to the neck.

Their carapace is usually covered in mud or algae as they spend a lot of time at the bottom of their watery habitats.

Oxbows, slow-moving bogs, drainage ditches, shallow lakes, and ponds are some of the places you may find the little stinkpots. 

Musk turtles are often called Stinkpots because they can release a milky substance that carries a foul smell when they are threatened. They have two glands at the rear of their shells that release this nasty musk to protect them from danger.

Musk turtles are adept climbers. In the water, they usually don’t swim but climb on the vegetation to hunt for food or reach the surface for air. They are so good at climbing that they can be found up to 6 feet high in bushy trees.

Musk turtles are omnivores that will eat nearly anything they can find in their habitat. This includes fish, mollusks, insects, worms, vegetation, and carrion.

Box Turtles in Indiana

8. Eastern Box Turtle

Yellow Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) exploring in the woods
Yellow Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) exploring in the woods
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Terrapene carolina carolina
  • Other Names: Land Turtle
  • Adult Size: 4 to 7 inches
  • Life Span: 50 to 100 years
  • Average Price Range: $260 – $360
  • Conservation Status: Michigan, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut—list the animal as a species of special concern, and Maine lists the turtle as endangered

The Eastern Box turtle is a terrestrial species that spends its life wandering moist forest floors. They are often found near a water source as they will soak in the water to cool off and hide in the mud or under leaf litter when they hibernate.

The Eastern Box turtle can swim and is sometimes observed in the water in the wild, but they are not great at it and prefer to get around on land. They usually stay within a few hundred yards of their original nest site.

Box turtles have a highly domed carapace and a hinged plastron that they can close tightly when threatened. Their shells are olive, dark brown, or black, with yellow or orange markings on each scute (individual plates on the turtle’s shell).

They have dark colored skin with yellow, orange, or reddish spots and markings. Males tend to have red eyes while females have light brown to yellow eyes, but this isn’t a definitive way to determine the sex of box turtles. 

See our guide on how to tell the gender of a turtle for more steps to figuring out if your turtle is male or female.

Eastern Box turtles are omnivorous. They will eat worms, insects, caterpillars, grubs, fungi, vegetation, berries, nuts, and carrion. 

9. Ornate Box Turtle

Ornate box turtle (Terrapine ornata ornata) found outside a lighthouse in the woods
Ornate box turtle (Terrapine ornata ornata) found outside a lighthouse in the woods
  • Experience Level: Intermediate to Expert
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Terrapine ornata
  • Other Names: Box Tortoise, Western Box Turtle
  • Adult Size: 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12.5 cm)
  • Life Span: 30 to 40 years
  • Average Price Range: $150 to $450
  • Conservation Status: Near threatened

The tiny Ornate Box Turtle looks similar to the Eastern Box turtle. It can completely close itself in its shell too. It also has yellow or orange markings on the carapace, but these markings look similar to starburst patterns.

The upper shell has a small marked ridge running from front to back. The shell also slightly flares out along the edge.

This species of turtle can withstand dryer conditions than most other box turtles. They prefer grassy or sandy plains and prairies, compared to damp forests and wetlands.

The Ornate Box turtle is an omnivore as well and will eat eggs, insects, slugs, snails, berries, flowers, and some carrion.

Mud Turtles in Indiana

10. Eastern Mud Turtle

Eastern mud turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum) retracted in its shell on beach with plants behind it
Eastern mud turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum) on forrest floor with all limbs retracted
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Kinosternidae
  • Scientific Name: Kinosternon subrubrum
  • Other Names: Common mud turtle
  • Adult Size: 3 to 4 inches
  • Life Span: 40 to 50 years
  • Average Price Range: $20 – $100
  • Conservation Status: Least concern

The Eastern Mud Turtle is a small, drab looking turtle. It has a plain, yellowish brown to black carapace and a hinged plastron. 

The head and limbs are dark colored with faded mottling or speckles.

These turtles are semi-aquatic and spend time on land during the spring and fall. In the water, they are clumsy swimmers, and usually, walk along the bottom or climb up vegetation.

Since they are not great swimmers, they prefer slow-moving to stagnant, shallow waters such as drainage ditches, marshes, and ponds. 

Like Musk turtles, the Eastern Mud turtle also has musk glands that can release an awful-smelling secretion when they are handled or threatened.

The Eastern Mud turtle feeds mainly on protein sources such as fish, crayfish, crustaceans, mollusks, and insects.

Cooters in Indiana

11. Hieroglyphic River Cooter

  • Experience level: Beginner
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Pseudemys concinna hieroglyphica
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Average Adult Size: 5 – 13 inches
  • Life Span: 15 – 20 years
  • Average Price Range: $120 to $180
  • Conservation Status: Endangered

The Hieroglyphic River Cooter has a highly marked carapace. It’s olive, or dark brown with prominent yellow, orange, red, and/or black patterns that may resemble hieroglyphs. There are serrations along the back end of the carapace. 

They have dark skin with yellow stripes very similar to the Red Eared Slider, except they lack the red “ears” behind the eyes.

These turtles are very aquatic and rarely leave the water except to nest and bask. They prefer swift-moving rivers, lakes, and larger bodies of water. 

Omnivorous, the Hieroglyphic River Cooter eats plenty of vegetation, fish, mollusks, and insects.

Painted Turtles in Indiana

12. Midland Painted Turtle

Pair of Midland painted turtles (Chrysemys picta marginata) basking on rocks
Pair of Midland painted turtles (Chrysemys picta marginata) basking on rocks
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Chrysemys picta marginata
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: Between 4 and 10 inches
  • Life Span: Between 30 and 50 years
  • Average price range: Between $30 and $150
  • Conservation Status: Special concern

There are several species of Painted turtles and they are often difficult to tell the difference between them without a close up examination. The Midland Painted Turtle has a slightly domed, smooth carapace that’s olive, to dark brown.

It has brighter markings along the marginal scutes and a lighter colored, tan, or yellowish plastron. Their skin is dark brown to black with yellow and red stripes. The red markings are only on the limbs and not on the head.

Midland Painted turtles like quiet, shallow lakes, ponds, streams, and marshes with a lot of vegetation. These turtles can also be found in some urban or suburban ponds and habitats.

Mostly aquatic, the Midland Painted will spend plenty of time basking in groups on rocks, logs, or banks of their habitat. They are shy and secretive and will quickly slip into the water at the first sign of disturbances.

These turtles are omnivorous. They feed on vegetation, aquatic fish, and invertebrates.

13. Western Painted Turtle

Western painted turtle (Chrysemys Picta Belli) on downed tree in water basking
Western painted turtle (Chrysemys Picta Belli) on downed tree in water basking
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Chrysemys Picta Belli
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: Between 4 and 10 inches
  • Life Span: Between 30 and 50 years
  • Average Price Range: Between $30 and $150
  • Conservation Status:

You can tell a Western Painted Turtle from a Midland Painted turtle relatively easily if you can see the plastron. The former turtle has a red plastron with a wide pattern that spreads out from the center. 

Their carapace is smooth, slightly domed, and mostly patternless except along the marginal scutes. Their skin is dark colored with yellow and red stripes. 

Males are slightly smaller than females but they have much longer front claws and a longer tail. 

These turtles enjoy the same type of habitat as the Midland Painted turtle, and they sometimes end up mating between species. These Painted turtles are omnivores as well, and feed on a lot of vegetation, but also consume fish, and other aquatic small animals.

14. Red-eared Slider

Red eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) and yellow belly slider basking on branch over water
Red eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) and yellow belly slider basking on branch over water
  • Experience level: Beginner
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Trachemys scripta elegans
  • Common Name: Pond slider, Red-eared terrapin, Water slider
  • Average Adult Size: 6 – 8 inches
  • Life Span: 20 to 40 years
  • Average Price Range: approximately $30 to $100
  • Conservation Status: Least concern

Red Eared Sliders are very popular around the world. They originated from the United States and are a native species in Indiana but because of their adaptability, they are found around the world.

In the 1950s these turtles were sold for pennies in nearly every Five and Dime store across the nation. Prospective buyers were told they would not get much larger than a hockey puck if they were kept in a small enclosure. 

When parents bought these turtles for their children, they soon realized this “easy to care for pet” was very messy, required a lot of care, and did indeed get much bigger than advertised. Children often got bored with them, so frustrated parents set them free. 

Today, the Red Eared Slider is found in almost every state in America.

In Indiana, you can see them in nearly any body of water across the entire state. They have highly marked carapaces in a variety of colors. They can be yellowish grey, light green, brown, or olive green with yellow and black swirls and patterns.

Their skin is olive green to black with yellowish stripes, but they have the distinguishing red blobs behind their eyes. Their plastron is usually pale yellow with one or several dark blotches.

They are excellent swimmers with webbed feet. They love to bask, but can also be seen floating near the surface of the water.

Red Eared Sliders are not picky eaters, they will feed on nearly anything edible. They eat fish, tadpoles, insects, mollusks, and crustaceans, as well as aquatic vegetation. 

Map Turtles in Indiana

15. Northern Map Turtle

Side view of a Northern Map turtle (Graptemys geographica) sitting on a downed tree in a swamp
Side view of a Northern Map turtle (Graptemys geographica) sitting on a downed tree in a swamp
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Graptemys geographica
  • Other Name: Common map turtle
  • Adult Size: Between 4 and 10 ½ inches
  • Life Span: 15 to 20 years
  • Average price range: Between $20 and $60
  • Conservation Status: Least concern

The Northern Map Turtle has a lightly-covered map-like pattern on the upper part of the shell, while in the center, there is a dark colored, serrated ridge, and a row of saw-toothed knobs at the back of the carapace.

These markings and the ridge fade as the turtle ages. Their skin is olive to dark brown with thick yellowish stripes. 

They prefer rivers, creeks, and large ponds with plenty of vegetation and basking spots. They often share basking real estate with other turtles but will slip into the water at the first sign of a disturbance.

These turtles are often active in the cold when most other turtles are hibernating. They will hibernate during the harshest, coldest time of winter.

Map turtles have strong jaws that allow them—especially females who are bigger—to break into freshwater clam and mussel shells. They also eat insects, crustaceans, algae, and vegetation.

16. False Map Turtle

False map turtle (Graptemys pseudogeographica) on thick branch over water
False map turtle (Graptemys pseudogeographica) on thick branch over water
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Graptemys pseudogeographica
  • Other Names: Sawback turtle
  • Adult Size: 3.5 to 10.5 inches (9 to 26.5 cm)
  • Life Span: 30 to 50 years
  • Average Price Range: $6 to $40
  • Conservation Status: Least concern

The False Map Turtle has very similar feeding habits, lives in the same waters, and looks very similar to the Northern Map turtle. They can be differentiated by the prominent serrations at the back of the shell and on the ridge. These are what give the False Map turtle the nickname the Sawback turtle.

The most identifying feature of the False map turtle is the thick, yellow “V” or hook shaped stripe behind the eyes. Other than that, these turtles act, and look very similar to the Northern Map turtle. They even have the same diet.

17. Ouachita Map Turtle

Ouachita Map Turtle (Graptemys Ouachitensis) being held with top view of shell and head
Ouachita Map Turtle (Graptemys Ouachitensis) being held with top view of shell and head – source
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Graptemys ouachitensis
  • Other Names: Southern Map turtle
  • Adult Size: 3.5 to 10 inches (9 to 25.5 cm)
  • Life Span: 15 to 20 years
  • Average Price Range: $40 to $100
  • Conservation Status: Least concern

Pronounced “Wah-Chee-Ta” (kinda sounds like Witchita) the Ouachita Map Turtle has three to four prominent, dark, spikes on the central keel on the carapace. They also have sawtoothed ridges at the back of the shell. 

They also have map-like markings on the carapace and light yellow to white stripes on the head, neck, and limbs. You can identify the Ouachita Map turtle by the larger blotches behind and under the eyes, and another one is found on the chin.

Females are larger than males and sometimes up to twice their size. They also have larger, stronger jaws that allow them to eat mussels and clams, while the males stick mostly to insects, and small crayfish. They also eat some vegetation.

They prefer streams, creeks, and oxbows with sandy, or muddy bottoms.

FAQs

Are there any tortoises native to Indiana?

There are many types of turtles native to Indiana, but the Hoosier state has no native tortoises. 

What is the largest turtle in the world?

Leatherback turtles are the largest species in the world. They average around 6 to 7 feet long and weigh up to 1,500 pounds. In 1988 a massive leatherback turtle was accidentally caught in a fishing net and it drowned.

It measured 9 feet long and weighed 2,016 pounds. It was thought to be over 100 years old. It was preserved and is on display at the National Museum of Cardiff in the United Kingdom.

What is the most common turtle in Indiana?

Painted turtles are the most common and widespread turtles in the United States. Though in Indiana Painted turtles, and Red Eared Sliders can be found in most waters throughout.

Conclusion

Indiana is home to 17 types of turtles. Maybe you will see some while you explore the state. If you’re interested in owning one of these species as a pet you should check local laws to make sure it’s legal to own or purchase them.

No turtle should be taken from the wild to be kept as a pet. This sudden upheaval will stress them out tremendously and significantly shorten their life.

Pet turtles should also never be released into the wild. They may not survive, but they could also pass along illnesses that native turtles aren’t immune to. This can decimate native populations of turtles.

Instead of releasing any pet into the wild, check for adoption agencies, pet rescues, or local vets to see if they can take the animal.

We love to hear from our readers so drop us a line. Say hi, or share some of your experiences with turtles. Until next time!

Other nearby states

References: 

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