Arizona Game and FIsh Department - Managing Today for Wildlife Tomorrow: Arizona Game and Fish Department

Phone Number
Online Services
Hunting & Fishing
Outdoor Recreation
Wildlife & Conservation
Living with Wildlife
Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy
Teaming With Wildlife

Conservation & Management

- Mexican Wolf Conservation & Management
- Apache Trout Recovery
- California Condor Recovery
- Jaguar Management
- Predator Management Policy
- Black-footed Ferret
- Elk Harvest Management Strategy
- Arizona Birds Conservation Initiative (ABCI)
- Bat Conservation and Management
Heritage Fund Program
Technical Reports
Landscaping for Desert Wildlife
Wildlife Related Diseases
Nongame Species
Arizona's Natural Heritage Program (HDMS)
Project Evaluation Program (PEP)
Economic Impact
Special Permits
Invasive Species Advisory Council
Information & Education
Inside AZGFD
Customer Service
Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta)

painted turtle
Photo by Tom Brennan.

Natural History

The painted turtle is an aquatic turtle in the Emydidae family. It is small to medium sized (up to 10 inches) and has a low, flat shell that with red and yellow on the margins. The plastron is bright yellow and the legs are marked with red stripes. Unlike the pond slider, they do not have red stripes on the head. 

The life history of the painted turtle in Arizona is relatively unknown because of its limited range in the state. They are omnivorous, eating insects, fish, amphibians, carrion, and aquatic plants. Painted turtles are sexually dimorphic; the males are smaller in size and have long claws used in mating. Females have short claws and grow larger than males. Mating occurs in spring and fall. Females nest along river and pond banks, laying as many as 25 eggs per clutch. 


Painted turtles have a large distribution found across the eastern and northern United States and southern Canada. In Arizona, there are several painted turtle populations north of the White Mountains in Apache County that are thought to be native, but are likely disjunct from the larger population of painted turtles. Painted turtles have also been established in ponds and canals in Phoenix, Tucson, and Cottonwood, well outside of their known natural range. 


Painted turtles prefer slow moving streams and reservoirs with plenty of logs and rocks for basking


To date, there has not been any research on the status of the native population of painted turtles in Arizona. Research is needed to determine the genetic makeup of the possibly unique population of painted turtles that occurs in Apache County. 

Cautionary Measures

A hunting license is required to collect painted turtles in Arizona. Contact the White Mountain Apache Tribe for license requirements on the reservation.

How You Can Help

Keep captive turtles captive. Captive turtles released into the wild can severely jeopardize local wild turtle populations through the introduction of diseases and parasites. Captive aquatic turtles released into the wild can also displace individuals or populations of wild aquatic turtles. If you have a turtle that you can no longer care for, contact the Phoenix Herpetological Society

Practice responsible OHV use. Using off-highway vehicles (OHVs) off of roads and trails can trample vegetation and lead to soil erosion, which degrades the water quality of streams and rivers where painted turtles reside.   

Participate in the Sponsor-a-Turtle program. The Arizona Game and Fish Department Turtles Project utilizes technical equipment such as radio-telemetry tags, GPS units, and hoop traps to survey and monitor turtle populations statewide. By donating to the Turtles Project, you will help project biologists purchase this gear so that they may continue to plan and implement conservation and management. Click here to download a Sponsor-a-Turtle program brochure.

Additional Information

Cristina Jones
Turtles Project Coordinator
(623) 236-7767

Audrey Owens
Turtles Project Biologist
(623) 236-7504


return to Arizona Turtle Conservation and Management

back to top
Did You Know?
A hunting license is required to capture many of Arizona’s reptile species, and a fishing license is required to capture many of Arizona’s amphibian species (combination hunting/fishing licenses are available).Protected species, such as the desert tortoise and the ornate box turtle, are not allowed to be collected even with a license. Click here for information on purchasing a license.
AZGFD Turtle Pages
- Turtle Conservation and Management
- Desert tortoises
- Captive desert torotise care
- Mud turtles
- Ornate box turtles
- Nonnative turtles
Related AZGFD Info
- Heritage Fund
- State Wildlife Grants
- Arizona Reptile and Amphibian Regulations
- Wildlife News
- Watchable Wildlife
- Nongame Species Management
- Living With Venomous Reptiles
- Sign up for AZGFD eNews
External Links
- Phoenix Herpetological Society
- Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC)
- Southwest PARC
- Turtle and Tortoise Preservation Group
- Turtle Survival Alliance
- NatureServe

Mission | Frequently Asked Questions | Web Policy | Send Comments | Employment | Commission Agenda | Office Locations | Site Map | Search | © 2013 AZGFD