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Fast Fact: Northern Map Turtles

Northern map turtles are one of 17 turtle species living in Illinois and one of 11 living in Will County. They are medium-sized turtles, and females are larger than males, which is common among turtles. A male map turtle’s shell is between 3½ and 6½ inches long, while females’ shells are 7 inches to 10 inches long.

A map turtle with its head and legs pulled in on a rocky ground.
A northern map turtle. (Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock)

Map turtles are skittish, even by turtle standards. While basking in the sun on rocks or logs, they will hop back in the water when they notice any disturbance. They are omnivores, eating a combination of plant matter and animal matter like aquatic insects and crustaceans. They live in slow-moving bodies of water such as lakes and the backwater areas of rivers and streams.

So why are they called map turtles? They have markings on their otherwise dark-colored shells that look like roadway or waterway markings on a map.


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