The shape of the Blanding’s turtle mouth makes it look like it’s always smiling. But things aren’t all cheery for this reptile, as habitat loss, the illegal pet trade and other problems threaten remaining populations.
This turtle is easily distinguished by its bright yellow chin and a mouth that curves up into what appears to be a smile. Unlike other Ontario turtles, which have wide, flatter shells, the Blanding’s turtle has a domed shell that resembles an army helmet. Blanding’s turtles can live to be 80 years old in the wild and take 14–20 years to reach sexual maturity. Some females only reach maturity after 25 years. Nesting takes place during the month of June.
Blanding’s turtles live in shallow water, usually in large wetlands and shallow lakes with an abundance of aquatic plants. It is not unusual, though, to find them hundreds of metres from the nearest water body, especially while they are searching for a mate or traveling to a nesting site. Blanding’s turtles hibernate in the mud at the bottom of lakes, marshes and wetlands from late October until the end of April.
The core range of the Blanding’s turtle is in the southern Great Lakes, with isolated populations found in Quebec, Nova Scotia and near the east coast of the United States. In Canada, Blanding’s turtles are separated into the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence population and the Nova Scotia population.
Habitat loss and fragmentation is the most significant threat to Blanding’s turtle populations. A close second are predators that attack turtle nests and hatchlings. In some locations, 100 per cent of eggs are destroyed by so-called “human-subsidized” predators: raccoons, skunks, opossums, foxes, domestic and feral dogs and cats, coyotes, and crows, whose numbers are artificially inflated by access to human garbage, crops and other food sources. Other threats include motor vehicle collisions and illegal collection for the pet trade. Since Blanding’s turtles are slow breeders, anything that removes breeding adults from the population has a significant effect on the species.
Recommended Recovery Actions
A proposed federal Recovery Strategy for the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence populations of Blanding’s turtles calls for a number of measures, including conserving and restoring critical habitat, protecting nests, curbing illegal collection and co-operating with landowners, interest groups and other stakeholders to reduce threats.
The federal recovery strategy for Blanding’s turtles in Nova Scotia calls for a number of measures, including conserving critical habitat, protecting nests, assessing the effectiveness of incubation and headstarting, and moving vulnerable adults, hatchlings and nests if they are at immediate risk.
What We Are Doing
Find out how Wildlife Preservation Canada helps save Canada’s reptiles and amphibians, including Blanding’s turtles, and how you can make a difference.