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False Map Turtle

False Map Turtle

North Dakota Species of Conservation Priority III

Fact Sheet
Scientific Name Graptemys pseudogeographica
General Description L 10” for females and 5” for males. This is a rather small, brown-shelled turtle with conspicuous knobs in the middle of the shell. A yellow spot behind eye, light yellow stripes, and no red/orange markings distinguish this species from the painted turtle.
Status Year-round resident.
Abundance Rare.
Primary Habitat Large rivers with or without submerged vegetation. Generally found associated with sandbars in river system.
Federal Status No federal status.
Reason for Designation Listed as Vulnerable in South Dakota by NatureServe. It was once a federal candidate species. Only a few records have been verified of this species in North Dakota.

Locations and Conditions of Key Habitat

Preferred Habitat

False Map Turtles prefer large rivers or streams. A highly aquatic species which rarely emerges from the water except to lay a clutch of 6-13 eggs in the spring. May bask on slippery snags rising at steep angles from the water, but flees quickly if disturbed. Feeds on aquatic vegetation, insects, worms, crustaceans, minnows, and mollusks.

Key Areas and Conditions for False Map Turtle in North Dakota

The free-flowing Missouri River System below Garrison Dam is the only stretch of river where the turtles have been verified.

Problems Which May Affect this Species


Habitat alteration from the impoundment of the Missouri River has affected the distribution of this species. Availability and quality or the alteration/destruction of sandbars in the lower Missouri River stretch could affect nesting.

Other Natural or Manmade Factors

Nesting turtles may be disturbed by human recreation on sandbars.

Research and Survey Efforts

Current Research or Surveys

  • North Dakota State University is surveying reptiles and amphibians in SE North Dakota. This includes the Missouri River.

Previous Research or Surveys

  • The North Dakota Game and Fish Department sampled turtles in the Missouri River. 2005-2007.
  • Wheeler and Wheeler (1966) conducted a statewide survey of all amphibians and reptiles, as well as compiled existing records. The turtles were found statewide in permanent water.
  • Hoberg and Gause (1992) recorded personal observations of Snapping Turtles in North Dakota.
  • A compilation of all records in North Dakota by Jundt (2000) listed 3 documentations of the False Map Turtle in the state.

Additional Research or Surveys Needed

Future survey efforts could include additional trapping efforts along the Missouri River and in smaller streams leading into the Missouri.

Management Recommendations

  • Avoid clearing or replacing natural vegetation along shoreline, providing at least 50-75 feet of undisturbed habitat to protect water quality and prevent erosion.
  • Leave logs, snags, and other woody debris on site, or replace if removed.
  • Limit erosion control structures such as retaining walls or riprap that will limit or prevent access to the shoreline and adjacent habitat.
  • Do not alter natural river undulations, backwater areas, or sand and gravel bars.
  • When possible, keep cattle out of streams to reduce impacts on water quality and the streambed.

Monitoring Plans

  • Currently no monitoring is taking place. Possible monitoring options could include school classes/programs including universities, the general public through the NDGFD incidental reporting system, or national monitoring initiatives such as PARC. Monitoring should be directed at all turtle species.

2005-2015 Progress

The False Map Turtle maintains its Level III Species of Conservation Priority ranking. Turtle surveys of the Missouri river from 2007 to 2009 provided more confirmed sightings, but little is still known of this species life history details in the state.

Range Map

Note: A listing of works consulted when compiling the information on this page may be found in the 2015 State Wildlife Action Plan.