Take a Minute for a Turtle

Painted turtle.

World Turtle Day® is Thursday, May 23, and we invite you to take a minute for a turtle on Thursday, or before it. Worldwide, turtles and tortoises have suffered from habitat loss, land-based and aquatic pollution and litter, and stolen from their native environments for food and the pet trade. Some species some have become extinct, and locally we have a lot of turtle work to do to protect them including the Blanding’s turtle which was designated as state endangered in 2009.

At Friends of the Chicago River we have been investing in turtle success for a long time by working to improve water quality and habitat and removing litter. Since 2014, we have been investing in nesting success with scientists from the Forest Preserves of Cook County with funds from private philanthropy. Because of the donors’ generosity, we have been able to restore a total of 225 acres of good turtle nesting habitat at Watersmeet Woods in Winnetka, Chipilly Woods in Northbrook, Skokie Lagoons in Glencoe, Wampum Lake Woods in Thornton and Sag Quarries in Lemont. These sites, which have the appropriate soil, are south facing, and now have the sunshine they need—away from the local predators who are unaware of the new turtle sites.

Our joint investment returned an astonishing 60% increase in the hatch-rate of baby turtles across species.

Adopt a Painted Turtle

To support our local turtles, we invite you to symbolically adopt a painted turtle for a full year for yourself or as a gift and support our wildlife habitat projects. Your $60 helps us advocate for clean water and healthy habitat which improves the river for the 80 species of fish, countless bird species, beavers, muskrats, turtles, and the even the occasional river otter that call it home. A one-time gift of $6,000 would enable us to add an acre of turtle nesting habitat and do even more for the turtles we love. To donate an acre contact Annie Hanrahan, development director, at (312) 939-0490, ext. 19 or ahanrahan@chicagoriver.org.

Turtle Fun Facts

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-Calumet River system. They are colorful, and not as large as snapping turtlesThe 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. In addition, 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.

Learn more about World Turtle Day here and follow @WorldTurtleDay on Facebook, X, and Instagram.

Turtle Advocacy

The American Tortoise Rescue who founded World Turtle Day says:

  •  Never buy a turtle or tortoise as it increases demand from the wild. Adopt from a rescue.
  • Never remove turtles or tortoises from the wild unless it is sick or injured. If they are crossing a busy street, pick them up and send them in the same direction they were going – if you try to make them go back, they will turn right around again.
  • Write letters to legislators asking them to keep sensitive habitat preserved or closed to off road vehicles.
  •  Report cruelty or illegal sales of turtles and tortoises to your local animal control department.
  • Report any turtle or tortoise of any kind less than four inches being sold. This is illegal everywhere in the U.S.

Support a turtle now.