Colorado is home to five species of turtles: the painted turtle, the ornate box turtle, the yellow mud turtle, the snapping turtle and the spiny softshell turtle. These turtles can be found near lakes, ponds, rivers and grasslands within the state. The shell on the back of a turtle is called the carapace and is a part of its skeletal system.
The painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) is one of the most common turtles in the United States. This species lives in shallow, muddy freshwater and swampy marshlands. Its carapace is smooth and dark, greenish-brown with bright red and yellow markings. The carapace can grow up to 10 inches long. The painted turtle spends its day actively hunting for fish and insects. It spends its evenings resting at the bottom of a nearby pond, lake or other water source.
Ornate Box Turtle
The ornate box turtle (Terrapen ornata ornata) is the state reptile of Kansas. Its population is experiencing declines in some areas as human activity disturbs its natural habitat. Its carapace is dark brown with patterned bright, yellowish-orange lines and a spotted head. Its size can range between 5 to 10 inches. This species is terrestrial and prefers grasslands and open fields where it can find fruits, berries, lizards, birds and vegetables on which to feed.
Yellow Mud Turtle
The yellow mud turtle (Kinosternon flavescens) has an olive green carapace with a high dome. Its shell size ranges from 10 to 15 centimeters in length. Yellow mud turtles live in small freshwater ponds with muddy bottoms. They can also be found in grasslands with small water sources. Its diet is omnivorous and consists of insects, smaller amphibians, reptiles, fish, shrimp, spiders, ticks, earthworms and plants. This species will wander from pond to pond in search of a mate.
The snapping turtle (chelydra serpentina) has a tail nearly as long as its shell which grows between 7 to 17 inches. This species has a dark brown or dark tan carapace and yellow markings on its head and the sides of its neck. Its tail, neck and legs are yellowish green and its head is darker green than the rest of its body. Snapping turtles live in freshwater with muddy bottoms. Its diet consists of fish, birds, small mammals, amphibians and vegetation. This anti-social turtle has been known to decapitate other turtles and kill young and adult ducks.
Spiny Softshell Turtle
The spiny softshell turtle (Apalone spinifera spinifera) has a soft flat carapace with a length ranging between 5 to 18 inches. This aquatic turtle lives in freshwater rivers, streams, lakes, marshes, ponds and bays. It prefers water bodies with sandy or muddy bottoms. Spiny softshell turtles hide at the bottom of the water and waits to ambush their prey. It eats acquatic insects, crayfish and small fish. It also searches under rocks at the bottom of ponds and lakes for its food.