This Week’s Endangered Species in Focus: Blanding’s Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii)

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Status: Threatened Provincially and Nationally

Description:

Blanding’s Turtle is a medium-sized turtle with an average shell length of approx. 18-23 cm. The distinguishing feature of this turtle is its bright yellow neck and chin. The shell is domed with numerous yellow or light coloured flecks or streaks on black. The Blanding’s turtle takes 14-20 years to reach sexual maturity. The clutch size varies from 5 to 12 eggs. Mating likely occurs in April and early May and hatching will take place in September or early October.

Range:

  • Mostly, the Blanding’s Turtle can be found in and around the Great Lakes basin, western Nebraska, southern Illinois, eastern Ontario
  • Isolated populations are found in Quebec, Nova Scotia and near the east coast of the United States
  • In Ontario, it can be found throughout the Southern and Central parts, except along the Bruce Peninsula
  • This map, provided by Ontario Nature, shows the Blanding’s Turtle range in Southern Ontario

map1

Habitat:

  • In spring, the Blanding’s Turtle can be found basking on rocks and logs
  • From late October until the end of April, the Blanding’s Turtle hibernates in mud at the bottom of permanent water bodies
  • It feeds off crustaceans, insect larvae, tadpoles, leeches, fish, frogs, crayfish, carrion, berries and vegetable debris
  • Prefers shallow waters with abundant vegetation
  • Nesting habitat can include sandy beaches and shorelines along lakes and ponds, roadsides or gravel roads

Threats:

  • The most significant threats the Blanding’s Turtle are loss of habitat, motor vehicles, and raccoons, coyotes, skunks and foxes that prey on their eggs
  • Our cool summers have impacted the reproduction of the Blanding’s Turtle
  • The Blanding’s Turtle appearance makes it look as though it’s always smiling. Because of this, poachers have been capturing the species for resale in the pet trade – thus effecting the population

Protection:

  • The Toronto Zoo and Earth Rangers have started an incubation/conservation project for the Blanding’s Turtle. They will collect and incubate 55 turtle eggs annually from at risk nests and care for the turtles until ready for release in the wilderness
  • Currently listed as Threatened under the Ontario Endangered Species Act, 2007
  • Currently listed as Threatened under the Federal Species at Risk Act
  • Designated as a Specially Protected Reptile under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act

What YOU Can Do to Help:

  • As more and more development occurs, it brings more road traffic to the area. When driving through marshy areas, keep an eye out for a crossing turtle
  • Should you see a Blanding’s Turtle at a pet store, contact the Ministry of Naturals Resources and make a report immediately
  • Should you encounter the Blanding’s Turtle in the public, make you sure you contact the Ministry of Natural Resources and report you sighting in detail
  • Currently 7 out of 8 of Ontario’s freshwater turtles are either endangered, threatened or of special concern. Educate children about the threats involving turtles and the importance of wetlands in our environment
  • Visit Earth Rangers to learn how you can participate, or donate to their conservation efforts (http://www.earthrangers.com/wildwire/blandings-turtle/)
  • Volunteer at your local Natural Club to learn more and participate in activities focused on species at risk

FUN FACTS:

  • The Blanding’s Turtle may live to be 80 years old, but some have been known to be 100!
  • Turtles do not provide care to their little ones once they hatch
  • Some scientists believe that the Blanding’s Turtle may also hibernate on land by burying themselves deep in moist soil through the winter
  • Blanding’s have a hinge at the front of their shell, this allows them to close the entire shell when retracting its head
  • The temperature of the incubated eggs determines the sex of the of the turtle (between 22° and 28° = males, between 30° and 32° = female)
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