• Turtle

    Date: Jul 13, 2020 at 5:00 pm

    Location: Beartown Lakes Reservation

    Wildlife Seen: 1 Turtle

    Behavior Observed:

    I saw a turtle with two very distinct yellow spots on the back of it’s head. I was thinking it was a musk turtle because its shell wasn’t quite like a painted and I could see the yellow stripes along the sides of the head. Then I noted the bright yellow spots one on each side on the top of the head. I am not familiar with that turtle (I am observant but no expert). My ODNR book implies a Ouachita which would be unexpected but fits with my thinking Musk not Painted. We were at the swampy overlook/ bridge at the lower SW corner of Lower Bass Lake. He was in the mucky water plants and was about 6 inches in diameter? Do Paints and Sliders have yellow spots?

    Naturalist's Response

    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!