Northern Map Turtle (Le Sueur, 1817)
Graptemys geographica

*previously known as the Common Map Turtle prior to 2001. Please refer to the Feb 2001 SSAR, HL, ASIH Guide to Scientific and Standard English Names of Amphibians and Reptiles of North America. There were no revisions to Graptemys in the 2003 update and a new update will be coming out in summer 2007.

Page is being updated currently, sorry for the delay. 9/6/06

Description:  Males reach a carapace length of approximately 160 mm (6.3 in), have a relatively low carapace and a narrow head. Females can reach sizes of 270mm (10.63 in), have a higher domed shell and a very wide head. The most noticeable characteristic of this species are the "loosely" parallel radiating lines on the head and neck that are interrupted by a variable yellow spot on each side of the head behind the eyes. This amorphous spot can be round, triangular, rectangular or any other random shape. The carapace is brownish or olive-green with a reticulate pattern of "map-like" sequences throughout. The plastron is cream colored with no pattern. However, hatchlings have black outlines following the seems of the plastron like in G. n. nigrinoda.

Head Classification Subgroup: Broad-headed, macrocephaly in adult females

Previous Taxonomy: Emys lesueuri Gray, 1831, Malacoclemmys geographica (LeSueur, 1817), Testudo geographica LeSueur, 1817.

Range:  The Northern Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica) has a much larger range than most Graptemys species.  It is found in the following states:   Minnesota,  Iowa,  Missouri,  Kansas,  Arkansas,  Oklahoma,  Alabama,  Mississippi,  Tennessee,  Kentucky,  Georgia,  Virginia,  West Virginia,  Illinois,  Wisconsin,  Michigan,  Indiana,  Ohio,  Pennsylvania,  New York,  Vermont,  Delaware,  New Jersey and Maryland.  This turtle also reaches Quebec, Canada.   


*Notice how the range of the animal is actually in river systems and not just in all the shaded areas.  The map on the right was borrowed with permission from John Iverson's, A Checklist with Distribution Maps of the Turtles of the World. 

Habitat Description: This turtle is associated with rivers, streams and lakes.  However,  it has been found in ponds and other small bodies of water. This is the only Graptemys species to inhibit a river drainage that flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Like other Graptemys, it prefers river edges with ample basking sites (brush piles, snags and stick-ups).  Unlike most of the Gulf Coast species, G. geographica will bask on the river bank especially in the northern limits of its range. An interesting note worth mentioning is considering the habitat where the original Graptemys was collected. Le Sueur, a European scientist, caught the first (the type locality) Graptemys geographica, later named Testudo geographica in a marsh adjacent to Lake Eerie in Ohio.

Sympatric Relationships: G. geographica can be found with several other Graptemys species and subspecies in the same spatial area. Considering the dynamics of the narrow-head/broad-head relationships in river systems,  this turtle can be considered a member of the broad-headed group. 

Nesting Information:

Other Information:


Legal Status throughout its range, updated as of 9/1/06:
(please be aware that laws can change frequently, be sure to check with the state DNR or Fish and Game to be certain of current regulations)

Alabama- Not protected or regulated (9/2006)  Link to the non-game protected list   Link to non-game summary of turtles

Arkansas- 6 per household with a fishing license for a resident, non-residents are not allowed to harvest turtles (Link to all regulations, see 39.01) (1/2006) 

Georgia - Cannot possess or collect native wildlife. No commercialization of native species. (9/2006) Link to Georgia Herp regulations and protected list   

Illinois - 8 per day with a possession limit of 16 with a fishing license, No commercialization of native species.  (9/2006) Link to turtle regulations    Link to IDNR    Link to protected list

Indiana- 4 with a hunting or fishing license if over 17 years old and a resident, No commercialization of native species. (9/2006) Link to herp regulations

Iowa -  Residents must have a fishing license to take map turtles, nonresidents cannot capture this species (9/2006) Link to turtle regulations

Kansas - State Threatened   No commercialization of native species (9/2006) Link to the description and status in Kansas

Kentucky - No written herp laws that I can find...unbelievable, what year is this? (9/2006)

Louisiana - Not protected in Louisiana, fishing license needed to collect, collectors license needed to sell. This species "probably" does not occur there. (9/2006) Link to the protected list

Maryland - Endangered, May not be possessed, bred or commercially traded. No commercialization of wild native species. (9/2006) Link to Maryland Wildlife   Listed Species Captivity Permit

Michigan- Fishing license needed for collection for personal use, bag limit is 6.  No commercialization of wild native species except snapping Turtles and green Frogs with a license (9/2006) Regulations

Minnesota - Non-harvestable (9/2006) Turtle Regulations

Missouri - 5 native animals may be taken or possessed alive by a resident with no permit needed, non-resident cannot. No commercialization of native species. (9/2006) State Turtle Information  Turtle Regulations

New Jersey - Classified as Undetermined in their listing class.  Permit needed to possess.  (9/2006)  Non-game Regulations   Species Account   Checklist  

New York - "Protected" kind of? , a small game permit is needed to collect or keep them. This is a very "gray" area depending on who you talk to. I have been trying to sort this out for some time now. (9/2006)  Protected Species List    Western New York Herp Society Guide to Clarifying NY herp laws (I tried not to be critical, but the state needs to get it together here).

Ohio - Residents may possess 4, Non-residents may not collect any herp species.  No commercialization of wild native species (9/2006) Species Description  Reptile Regulations

Oklahoma -Protected (9/2006) Turtle Regulations

Ontario - Protected from capture, but a possession limit of 1 for incidental encounters is OK...however it may not be sold, bred, etc.. (9/2006) Species Info   Conservation Plan  List of Protected Species

Pennsylvania - Fishing license needed, daily limit 2, possession limit 2. No commercialization of native species.(9/2006) Herp Regulations Homepage 

Quebec - License needed to capture and keep this species. The regulations on this species are hard to distinguish.  (9/2006) Quebec Regulations   Herp List

Tennessee - 5 can be collected ONLY from the Reelfoot Wildlife Management area with a fishing license. (9/2006) Turtle Regulations

Virginia - Possession limit is 5, taking turtles by hook and line requires a fishing license (9/2006) Turtle Regulations

Vermont - Species of Special Concern (9/2006) Wildlife Laws

West Virginia - Protected (9/2006) 

Wisconsin - Must have a fishing license or small game license, open season from July 15-November 30 only, bag limit is 5. (9/2006) Link to Turtles   Link to species  Link to Regulations   No commercialization of wild native species with the exception of a few bait and food amphibians..

***If anyone observes an error or out-of-date information concerning these regulations, please contact me so I can change them. I will do my best to keep up with the current regulations and state status of all members of the Genus Graptemys. The conservation of wild populations of Graptemys (as well as other turtle Genera) and their habitat should be the primary concern of all turtle enthusiasts as well all other nature lovers.  Preservation of native species is the primary concern of state DNR and Fish & Game agencies.  Stricter laws have been put into place to ensure the survival of wildlife for future generations.  We can all see that development encroachment into natural areas has negative effects on many species, especially specialized and more habitat specific species (Glyptemys muhlenbergii, etc.). The purpose of listing the current state regulations on this site is to show that most state agencies are taking notice of the demand and abuse on their non-game wildlife.  Keep in mind that the basic purpose for tougher regulations is for the animals survival, not to prevent people from having them. ***   Chris