This is a small freshwater turtle reaching a maximum carapace length of 5 inches. The carapace (upper shell) is black to blue-black with 3 to 92 yellow or cream-colored spots. The plastron (lower shell) is yellow, cream, or orangish with large black blotches. The skin on head, neck, and limbs is dark gray to black with a variable number of yellow spots on them; the undersides of the limbs are reddish to yellowish in color. Juveniles are colored and patterned as adults, but with one spot in most pleural and vertebral scutes. Older individuals usually have more spots than juveniles, and the carapace may be very worn, eroded, and spotless. The non-breeding territory for this species is 1.3 acres (.002 square miles). This species is active from spring thaw until June. Mating occurs in spring in shallow water. Two to seven eggs are laid in the late spring or summer. Basking occurs frequently, especially early in the activity season, on logs, stumps, grass mats, and tussocks. This turtle overwinters underwater in mud, under banks, or in muskrat burrows.
The spotted turtle is found east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, but is also found in Augusta and Page counties in the Shenandoah Valley. It inhabits a variety of shallow-water aquatic habitats, including ponds, streams, flooded fields, bogs, forested wetlands, and freshwater marshes, that have wooded areas nearby.
This turtle is mainly carnivorous, but will occasionally eat plants. Several orders of insects, worms, slugs, snails, crayfish, spiders, and millipedes have been found in examined specimens.