Species Profile

Western Painted Turtle Pacific Coast population

Scientific Name: Chrysemys picta bellii
Taxonomy Group: Reptiles
COSEWIC Range: British Columbia
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: November 2016
COSEWIC Status: Threatened
COSEWIC Status Criteria: A2ce+3ce+4ce; C2a(i)
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: The distribution of this population overlaps with an area of dense human population in southwestern British Columbia, including the Lower Fraser Valley, where wetland loss has been extensive. Across its range, this population continues to face multiple threats from habitat loss and alteration, road mortality, and introduced species, such as Bullfrog and introduced turtles. Survey efforts within the past 10 years have revealed many new localities, bringing the total number of occupied waterbodies to over 80, grouped within 39 clusters. However, the Canadian population and local subpopulations are small and many, especially in the Lower Fraser Valley, are declining or considered not viable. The long-term persistence of the Canadian population remains precarious.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Endangered in April 2006. Status re-examined and designated Threatened in November 2016.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Threatened
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2007-12-13

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Taxonomy | Description | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Taxonomy

There are three subspecies of the Painted Turtle, Chrysemys picta, in Canada, one of which is the Western Painted Turtle, C. p. bellii.

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Description

Western Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta bellii, Gray 1831) are relatively large-bodied painted turtles with adults reaching up to 25 cm in carapace (dorsal shell) length. The subspecies has a distinct bright orange plastron (ventral shell) with a complex pattern of reticulated black lines. In Canada, Western Painted Turtles occur in three discrete broad areas, corresponding to the following designatable units: Pacific Coast and Intermountain – Rocky Mountain populations in British Columbia, and Prairie/Western Boreal – Canadian Shield population east of the Rocky Mountains. Western Painted turtles in British Columbia show extensive genetic differentiation, sometimes over short distances. This report recognizes these differences but maintains the three designatable units from the previous COSEWIC assessment (2006), based on considerations of discreteness and significance of the variation. (Updated: 2018/01/19)

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Distribution and Population

The distribution of the Prairie/Western Boreal – Canadian Shield population extends from the Algoma region of northern Ontario, west across the southern prairies to southeastern Alberta. Its natural range in Alberta is limited to the Milk River watershed, but numerous introduced subpopulations exist, some of which have been well established for close to a century or longer. The Intermountain – Rocky Mountain population occurs primarily in major valley bottoms between mountain ranges across the Southern Interior of British Columbia. Major population centres include the Thompson and Okanagan valleys, the southern East Kootenay Trench, and the southern Cariboo Region. The Pacific Coast population occurs in the Lower Fraser Valley from about Chilliwack to Greater Vancouver, Sunshine Coast north to Powell River, Texada Island, and parts of Vancouver Island including the Capital Regional District, Nanaimo area, and Alberni Valley. There are no accurate estimates of population size for any of the three populations. The Pacific Coast population probably consists of approximately 3000 or fewer adults. The Intermountain – Rocky Mountain population may have 5,000 – 10,000 adults, while the Prairie/Western Boreal – Canadian Shield population may have 10,000s of adults. None of these estimates are based on robust methods. Inferred from habitat loss, the Pacific Coast population has most likely declined from historical levels by an unknown percentage. The number of known localities has increased greatly over the past ten years due to search efforts. The Intermountain – Rocky Mountain population has also likely suffered declines from historical levels, especially in the Okanagan Valley, based on habitat trends. Population trends for the Prairie/Western Boreal – Canadian Shield population are unknown, but localized declines are likely. (Updated: 2018/01/19)

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Habitat

Western Painted Turtles are highly aquatic and are found in shallow waters of ponds, lakes, oxbows, and marshes, in slow-moving stream reaches, and in quiet backwater sloughs of rivers. Usually, their habitat contains muddy substrates with emergent aquatic vegetation, exposed vegetation root mats, floating logs, and open banks. Painted Turtles prefer floating logs, branches, or other emergent objects for basking. Nesting habitats are on land adjacent to aquatic foraging habitat, usually within 200 m of the water body, typically on gentle south-facing slopes. Eggs are laid in well-drained sites with soil, sand or gravel substrates that have minimal or no plant cover. (Updated: 2018/01/19)

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Biology

Adult Western Painted Turtles are omnivorous and forage on aquatic vegetation, carrion, and small live prey in shallow waters during the active season from spring to autumn. Younger turtles tend to be more carnivorous and feed on a variety of invertebrates and tadpoles. Eggs hatch in autumn, but hatchlings usually remain in the nest for their first winter. Hatchlings are freeze-tolerant to at least -10°C. Painted Turtles are considered to be one of the most tolerant vertebrates of hypoxic (oxygen-poor) conditions. Predation on eggs and hatchlings can be very high. Age at maturity is thought to range from 4 to 10 years for males and from 6 to 15 years for females. Generation time is estimated to be approximately 25 to 30 years for the Pacific Coast population and 30 to 40 years for the Intermountain – Rocky Mountain and Prairie/Western Boreal – Canadian Shield populations. (Updated: 2018/01/19)

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Threats

The main threats to Western Painted Turtles are from habitat loss and alteration, and road mortality. Habitat loss and alteration result from a variety of threats including residential and industrial development, agricultural activities that drain or infill water bodies, and free-ranging cattle that degrade water bodies. Turtles face threats from road mortality during seasonal migrations, when females move from water bodies to terrestrial nesting areas and when both males and females disperse. Other threats include invasive species, such as American Bullfrogs on the coast that prey on hatchlings and plants that reduce the quality of their nesting grounds. Recreational use can disturb basking and nesting turtles. Off-road vehicle use may degrade ponds and adjacent riparian habitats or damage nesting sites. Pollution runoff may affect water quality; sources include agricultural and septic tank runoff and industrial pollutants. Combined, threats for the Pacific Coast population were scored as “Very High”, for the Intermountain – Rocky Mountain population as “High”, and for the Prairie/Western Boreal – Canadian Shield population as “Medium”. (Updated: 2018/01/19)

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Western Painted Turtle, Pacific Coast population, is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Western Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta bellii) Pacific Coast population in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry

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Recovery Team

Western Painted Turtle Recovery Team

  • Kym Welstead - Chair/Contact - Government of BC
    Phone: 604-582-5279  Fax: 604-930-7119  Send Email

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Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

17 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Western Painted Turtle, Pacific Coast population (2018-01-18)

    The distribution of this population overlaps with an area of dense human population in southwestern British Columbia, including the Lower Fraser Valley, where wetland loss has been extensive. Across its range, this population continues to face multiple threats from habitat loss and alteration, road mortality, and introduced species, such as Bullfrog and introduced turtles. Survey efforts within the past 10 years have revealed many new localities, bringing the total number of occupied waterbodies to over 80, grouped within 39 clusters. However, the Canadian population and local subpopulations are small and many, especially in the Lower Fraser Valley, are declining or considered not viable. The long-term persistence of the Canadian population remains precarious.
  • Response Statements - Western Painted Turtle (2006-11-29)

    There are few records from Vancouver Island and the mainland south coast / Fraser River valley, and both regions are undergoing major loss of wetlands and a rapid increase in roads, development, and people. Recent searches of the lower Fraser River valley and of eastern Vancouver Island indicate the subspecies has declined in some of the handful of areas where it was previously observed.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Western Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta bellii) Pacific Coast population in Canada (2021-07-08)

    The Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency is the competent minister under SARA for the Western Painted Turtle Pacific Coast population and has prepared the federal component of this recovery strategy (Part 1), as per section 37 of SARA. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with the Province of British Columbia, as per section 39(1) of SARA. SARA section 44 allows the Minister to adopt all or part of an existing plan for the species if it meets the requirements under SARA for content (sub-sections 41(1) or (2)). The Province of British Columbia provided the attached recovery plan (Part 2) as science advice to the jurisdictions responsible for managing the species in British Columbia. It was prepared in cooperation with Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Parks Canada Agency, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Orders

  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Act (2007) (2007-05-16)

    This Order acknowledges receipt by the Governor in Council of the assessments of the status of 40 species done pursuant to paragraph 15(1)(a) and in accordance with subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The purpose of SARA is to prevent wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.
  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (2021-09-01)

    The objectives of the Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (the Order) are to help maintain Canada's biodiversity and support the well-being of Canadian ecosystems by preventing wildlife species from becoming extirpated from Canada or extinct and to contribute to their recovery, as well as to respond to COSEWIC's recommendations.
  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (volume 141, number 26, December 13, 2007) (2007-12-26)

    Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, pursuant to section 27 of the Species at Risk Act, hereby makes the annexed Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2006 (2006-08-30)

    2006 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
  • COSEWIC Annual Report 2016 to 2017 (2017-10-24)

    Over the past year COSEWIC re-examined the status of 40 wildlife species; of these, the majority (78 %) were reassessed at the same or lower level of risk. Of a total of 73 species assessed 11 were assigned the status of Not at Risk (8 re-assessments and 3 new assessments). To date and with the submission of this report, COSEWIC’s assessments now include 735 wildlife species in various risk categories including 321 Endangered, 172 Threatened, 219 Special Concern and 23 Extirpated (i.e. - no longer found in the wild in Canada). In addition 16 species have been assessed as Extinct, 58 have been designated as Data Deficient and 186 were assessed and assigned Not at Risk status.

Permits and Related Agreements

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act Terrestrial Species: December 2006 (2006-12-28)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list. Please submit your comments by March 16, 2007 for species undergoing normal consultations and by March 14, 2008 for species undergoing extended consultations.
  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species January 2018 (2018-01-26)

    The Government of Canada is committed to preventing the disappearance of wildlife species at risk from our lands. As part of its strategy for realizing that commitment, on June 5, 2003, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species provided for under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened species on Schedule 1 benefit from the protection afforded by the prohibitions and from recovery planning requirements under SARA. Special Concern species benefit from its management planning requirements. Schedule 1 has grown from the original 233 to 555 wildlife species at risk. In 2017, final listing decisions were made for 44 terrestrial species and 15 aquatic species. Of these 59 species, 35 were new additions, sixteen were reclassifications, three had a change made to how they are defined, two were removed from Schedule 1, one was referred back to COSEWIC for further evaluation and two were the object of ‘do not list’ decisions. In 2017, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, the Governor in Council approved listing proposals for 45 wildlife species. It is proposed that 21 species be added to Schedule 1, 11 be reclassified, 12 would have a change made to how they are defined, and one would be referred back to COSEWIC for further evaluation. The listing proposals were published in Canada Gazette, part I for a 30-day public comment period and final listing decisions for all 45 species are expected by August of 2018. Please submit your comments by May 22, 2018, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultations and by October 22, 2018, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations. For a description of the consultation paths these species will undergo, please visit the Species at Risk Public Registry (SAR) website.

Critical Habitat Descriptions in the Canada Gazette

  • Description of the Western Painted Turtle, Pacific Coast population, critical habitat in the Alaksen National Wildlife Area (2021-08-28)

    The Western Painted Turtle (Chrysemis picta bellii), Pacific Coast population is a relatively large-bodied painted turtle and is listed as threatened on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act. In Canada, the Pacific Coast population of the Western Painted Turtle occurs entirely in British Columbia, and can currently be found in four areas of southwestern British Columbia. Habitat requirements for the Western Painted Turtle include both aquatic habitat (for breeding, foraging, basking, overwintering, and movement) and surrounding terrestrial habitat (for nesting, basking, and movement) to complete life history functions.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016-07-06)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update December 2, 2021
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