Northern Map Turtle

A new turtle species has made its way to the pond at Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo. Back in August, I spotted it for the first time under the Lester E. Fisher Bridge, hanging out in a patch of algae. This week I observed the turtle again, now basking on a rock near the island in the company of a few red-eared sliders and a painted turtle.

The map turtle is the big one in the middle of the basking spot.

Aside from the fact that it’s been at the pond for over a month now, we don’t know much about this individual. Its origin is a particular mystery. Where did this guy come from?

Any path to this highly urban oasis must have been quite an adventure. For example, if the turtle came from the rowing lagoon to the east of the pond, it would probably have had to cross Cannon Drive, quite a feat for an animal that moves at the speed of…a turtle. But it is a map turtle after all, so maybe it just knows its way around!

Map turtles get their name from the bright yellow pattern on their skin and carapace (top shell) that looks like the roads on a roadmap. They’re native to this area, and like the other turtle species in the pond, map turtles are omnivores. The pond is a good habitat for map turtles because it’s adequately deep for them to safely overwinter at the bottom, and there are plenty of rocks and logs to serve as basking sites.

Turtle food in the form of aquatic vegetation and small invertebrates (snails, water bugs and similar prey) is abundant. It probably wasn’t simple getting to the pond, but now that this turtle is at Nature Boardwalk it seems to have found a perfect spot!

Vicky Hunt


Maybe he used Google Maps?

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