Not every state has an official state reptile. But we do.

Do you know what it is?

In 1995, a group of fifth graders in Niles, near the Indiana border, noticed Michigan did not have an official state reptile, while 31 other states did. So they nominated the common painted turtle.

The state legislature made it official later that year, and the painted turtle became the official state reptile. It's described on the Sates Symbols web page this way:

The painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) has distinctive yellow and red markings on its head, limbs, and shell. Found throughout Michigan, painted turtles range in length from four to ten inches. Painted  turtles normally live in shallow water and eat pond vegetation, insects, crayfish, and mollusks. During the cold winter months, painted turtles bury themselves in the mud and hibernate.

You used to be able to buy painted turtles at what we called 'the dime store' back in the '60s (Woolworth's and Kresge's were common 'dime stores' in Michigan. Now we have 'dollar stores'. Darn inflation.)

But they were later banned from public sale because they bred certain diseases like salmonella. But they ever lasted long enough at our house to get us sick. They usually were crushed underfoot, or eaten by the cat.

While kayaking, you can often see Painted Turtles sunning themselves on rocks. They are not threatening, and generally avoid contact with humans if possible. Unlike snapping turtles, who will take your finger off if you're not careful.

I bring this all up because April is the time of the year when baby painted turtles usually emerge from their buried lairs where their moms put them last winter. Normally, they begin making their way out by now, but with the cold weather, they may stay buried a bit longer. You can read all about the painted turtle's hatching process at




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