Thanks for sharing your mystery turtle sighting from Beartown Lakes!
We love a mystery; here are some potential suspects that fit the description of a small-sized turtle with yellow markings on its head:
- Common Musk Turtle, Sternotherus odoratus. These “stinkpots” have high-backed shells (which is consistent with your observation that the shell was different from a painted turtle’s), and are in the category of “less common than painted turtles, but not as rare as a Pegasus.” This could be a good match for your mystery turtle!
- Spotted Turtle, Clemmys guttata. This is a rare turtle, with a constellation of yellow spots over its head and body. However, since those “all-over” yellow spots are pretty distinctive and you don’t mention them, a Spotted Turtle is not one of my top suspects.
- Northern Map Turtle, Graptemys geographica. These are larger and flatter-shelled than Musk Turtles, and are found in Geauga County. Their distinctive marking is a yellow “moustache” above the mouth; since you didn’t mention this feature, a Northern Map Turtle isn’t my prime suspect.
- Ouachita Map Turtle, Graptemys ouachitensis. These have been spotted in adjacent counties, but are rarely seen locally. It’s not impossible that you spotted a Ouachita Map turtle at Beartown. However, it’s tricky to spot the difference between Northern and Ouachita Map Turtles unless you’re holding the animal for close-up inspection.
We’ll all keep an eye out at Beartown, and see if anyone can get a photograph of your mystery turtle. Good luck!