Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Western Painted Turtle is State's Official Reptile

The Western painted turtle, the most widespread species of turtle in the United States, is now officially recognized as Colorado's state reptile.

Gov. Bill Ritter signed HB 1017 Tuesday in front of an audience of Skyline Vista Elementary School students.

Students from Skyline Vista asked their state representative, Democrat Cherilyn Peniston of Westminster, to introduce a bill granting the turtle official recognition after learning that Colorado did not have a state reptile.

"Congratulations to all of you for taking an idea, bringing it to lawmakers at the Capitol, and turning that idea into a law," Ritter said. "You should all be very proud of yourselves for getting involved in our democratic process."

According to a website maintained by the Center for Reptile and Amphibian Conservation and Management, Western painted turtles are the largest of the nation's four species of painted turtles and can range from four to ten inches in length. They have webbed feet for swimming and spend most of their time in shallow lakes, streams and rivers.

Chrysemis picta belli got their common name from their colorful lower shells, which are brightly colored red with yellow and olive designs, according to a website maintained by the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, a unit of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Photo courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service