In 1995, this little Painted Turtle was designated Michigan’s state reptile. Well not this exact little Painted Turtle, but all of her (or his) kind. MCL 2.14: “The painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) is designated as the official reptile of this state.”
OK, state flower (apple blossom), state wildflower (dwarf lake iris), state tree (white pine), state stone (petoskey stone), state gem (chlorastrolite), state fossil (mastodon), state game mammal (white-tail deer), state fish (trout). Still, somehow a state reptile seems a tad odd. Michigan having a state soil (Kalkaska soil series) also gives cause for pause and isn’t featured prominently in our Pure Michigan campaign either. “Come to Michigan to see our dirt.”
But if we are going to have a state reptile, and lots of states do, then I’m glad the Painted Turtle lobby won. We have other kinds of turtles in Michigan, the Snapping Turtle being the most impressive. But I favor the more benign turtles, like Painted Turtles and Box Turtles. Plus the big snappers will often gather up all manner of unsightly stuff clinging to their shells. If you pick up a Painted Turtle it might have a leech clinging to its underbelly, but that’s to be forgiven because it encourages most of us to leave them alone.
Usually a Painted Turtle sunning itself on a log will quietly and quickly slip in the water as a kayak approaches. But this guy had the perfect sunny day and the perfect perch on the beaver lodge in Ghost Bay. So maybe he allowed himself to be more tolerant of us, since of course we didn’t touch and we let the camera do the zooming around and not us.