Adopt a Painted Turtle

Seven years ago, Friends of the Chicago River and scientists from the Forest Preserves of Cook County identified turtles as water-dependent animals already present in the system whose reproductive success could benefit from help. Leading a turtle habitat restoration effort with other experts, Friends worked on 135 acres of river turtle habitat restoration from 2015 to 2019 and is currently working on another multi-year project to create new nesting habitat.

Adopt Now

You can help us continue this important wildlife habitat work by symbolically adopting a painted turtle for a full year for yourself or as a gift. In doing so, you will support Friends’ wildlife habitat projects and advocate for clean water and healthy habitat which improves the river for the more than 80 species of fish, countless species of birds, beavers, muskrats, turtles, and the occasional river otter that call it home.

Several different adoption package levels are available to choose from. Your donation also includes a 12-month Friends membership along with discounts on canoe trips, free McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum membership, and tickets to our other special events. Friends also offers symbolic adoptions of channel catfish and osprey. You receive 20% off with a combination adoption package of all three or just two of the three.

The painted turtle is the official state reptile of Illinois. You will probably encounter a painted turtle more often than any other species when visiting the Chicago River system. They are colorful, and not as large as snapping turtles. The painted turtle has a similar appearance to the red-eared slider (an invasive non-native turtle) and the two are often confused. The painted turtle can be distinguished because it is flatter than the slider. Also, the slider has a prominent red marking on the side of its head (the "ear") and a spotted bottom shell, both features missing in the painted turtle.

Turtle restoration work

Other interesting facts about painted turtles:

  • They have the largest range of any North American turtle.
  • They are the most active from March to November.
  • During the winter they hibernate by burrowing into the mud.
  • They do not have teeth so they use their strong jaws to grip food.
  • They must eat their food in the water since their tongue does not move freely and they cannot manipulate their food well on land.