The Parklands

Native Turtles of Kentucky

Kentucky is home to many different types of turtles, both on land and in the water! With World Turtle Day quickly approaching, now is a great time to brush up on your turtle facts! Here are some of the most common turtles you may spot around The Parklands:

  1. Eastern Box Turtle – The only turtle on this list that lives predominately on land, this small terrestrial turtle is known for its slow pace and impeccable survival skills. Box turtles are the only turtle species that can completely close themselves inside their shells (“box” themselves in)!



2. Red-Eared Slider – This aquatic turtle has an iconic red strip on the side of its head, . giving it its name! As cold-blooded, water-dwelling reptiles, these turtles can often be seen basking on logs on sunny days. Did you know that female Red-Eared Sliders can grow to be twice the size of their male counterparts?



3. Painted Turtle – These aquatic turtles may often be mistaken for their red-eared cousins, but this species’ head and body are yellow and black, while the underside of their shell (the plastron) is a bright red!



4. Spiny Softshell Turtle – One of the stranger looking turtles in Kentucky, this large, flat reptile has a straw-like mouth and nose, a lightly colored shell, and huge paddle feet! And as its name indicates, this turtle’s shell is indeed soft! These turtles can sometimes be seen sunning on logs, but they like to spend lots of their time camouflaged under dead leaves and detritus in the creek.



5. Common Map Turtle – Another common aquatic turtle, the Map turtle, has black and yellow striping on its head and arms. But the shell is the real showstopper for this turtle! When they are young, a map turtle’s shell will have intricate green and black lines that look similar to a topographic map!



6. Snapping Turtle – These big boys are apex predators in many aquatic ecosystems! The snapping turtle can grow to be 40-50 pounds and over a foot long. Just because they’re mean doesn’t mean that they’re fast. In fact, snapping turtles are pretty lazy. They find a nice dark, muddy spot at the bottom of a creek or pond, wait for prey to swim past, and then snap their sharp jaws!



7. Common Musk Turtle – This is possibly the smallest turtle on the list, only growing to a size of four inches! Often found in slow moving streams and ponds, the Musk turtle has a defense unique among this list – its smell! When frightened, this turtle will exude an orange liquid and let out a terrible smell, thus giving it its name – the MUSK turtle!



8. River Cooter – This turtle lives in creeks and ponds. It has yellow and black striping on its face and arms and a shell with green and black markings on top, with a yellow plastron. The River Cooter can be seen sunning itself on logs throughout the creek. If a log is getting crowded, River Cooters may stack themselves on top of each other to get a spot in the sun!



Visit our Virtual Turtle Week event page for crafts, videos, and information about native Kentucky Turtles! You can also follow our Facebook event page for even more fun and reminders about our live Turtle Race, Saturday, May 23—the slowest 2 minutes in sports!