Are there turtles in your water?

painted turtles crown z trail cz chapman landing scappoose oregon

Do you have a pond or slough on your property? Now that warmer days are upon us, you might see some turtles on the logs.

Our project at Columbia County Reptiles and Amphibians is recording every lake and river that is home to turtles in Columbia County. If you have a pond, stream, or slough on your property or know where one is, we would love it if you could check it for turtles. Enter your finds on or leave a comment here letting us know what you find.

Identifying turtles

Western Painted Turtle

The Western Painted Turtle is our most common species, identified by the bright yellow lines on its head and often red interior margins of its shell. Though these turtles have decreased some due to habitat loss, they can still be found in slow water bodies with sufficient sun and logs for basking.

western pond turtle columbia county oregon
Western Pond TurtleJeff Harding)

Western Pond Turtles are struggling to hold on in our area. They are a small, drab turtle, the only one in the area without bright yellow lines on the head. These turtles require dry land with sparse vegetation near their water holes where they can dig into the soil and lay their eggs. Habitat loss, introduced predators such as bullfrogs and bass, and competition with other turtles has led this species to almost disappear from our area. If you find any let us know right away!

Red-eared Slider Trachemys scripta elegans
Red-eared SliderKala Murphy King)

Red-eared Sliders are an introduced species, native to the eastern United States but now spread all over the country due to the pet trade. They typically have yellow lines on the head, a red mark around the “ear”, and yellow markings on the interior shell margins. A related subspecies, the Yellow-bellied Slider, has a broad yellow mark on the face instead of red.

Finding turtles

As you can see from the pictures above, turtles love to bask on logs in slow-moving or still water. You must approach very carefully and take photos from a distance, as they are easily spooked and will drop into the water the moment they perceive you as a threat.

It’s easiest to see the turtles when they’re out in the open on logs, but they will also bask on the branch tangles that result from fallen or overhanging trees. It can be tough to find them when they’re doing this!

painted turtles crown z trail cz chapman landing scappoose oregon
Western Painted Turtles

In rare cases when logs are not available turtles will bask on banks or high spots.

painted turtles scappoose cz trail chapman

There’s a chance that turtles can be found in some of our local streams and rivers, especially the Nehalem and the Clatskanie. Look for logs and rocks that stick up out of the water in the sun near the shorelines. This would be a great find!

Thanks for taking a look! With your help we might be able to keep track of the last remaining turtle populations in Columbia County.

Published by Jonathan

Educator, Herpetologist, Hiker.

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