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Blanding's Turtle

Emydoidea blandingii (Holbrook)

This species has a high domed carapace spotted or streaked with greyish-yellow. Its plastron is yellow with black blotches, and there is yellow in the head and neck. We have several isolated small population of Blanding's Turtles near Kejimkujik Park (southwestern Nova Scotia). The nearest other Blanding's Turtles are in Quebec.

The favourite habitat is plant-filled coves and bogs of lakes, where they are seen basking on moss and grass hummocks. They eat carrion as well as insects and snails. Like Snapping Turtles, they have a very long neck which can be withdrawn into the shell inside a "turtleneck" shaped fold of skin. Blanding's Turtles are sometimes called box turtles, but this is not quite accurate. The plastron is hinged, allowing it to close up completely at the rear; "semi-boxed" is better.

Recent studies of Blanding's turtles by researchers at Acadia University and Kejimkujik National Park have given us more details on the life history of this species. Until these studies were started, few juvenile turtles had been seen and their life was not well understood. Now, 22 juveniles have been observed and some fitted with radio transmitters to track their movements. The entire Nova Scotia population is about 100 to 180 turtles, in the lakes and rivers in or around Kejimkujik National Park.

Blanding's Turtles were first listed as "Threatened" by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada in 1973. "Threatened" means they are likely to become endangered unless something in the situation changes. Blanding's Turtles should not be removed from the natural habitat. Sightings should be reported to Turtle Watch or the Museum.

Additional Facts and Details

The range extends from southern Ontario and adjacent Quebec west to southeastern Minnesota and south to northwestern Pennsylvania, central Illinois and north-central Nebraska.

There are a number of disjunct (cut off) populations east of Illinois. The most disjunct population is the one in Nova Scotia.

This population probably colonized Nova Scotia during a warm period after the last glaciation, about 5,000 years ago. Then about 3,000 years ago, the land bridge connecting Nova Scotia to New Brunswick was flooded and became salt marsh, preventing further colonization. Then the climate cooled, restricting the Blanding's Turtles to a small area in south central Nova Scotia where mean annual temperature is higher than in any other region in the Maritimes.

Nova Scotia Blanding's turtles hibernate underwater; elsewhere, these turtles are known to also hibernate in leaf litter at the edge of water habitats.

Nests are dug by females in sand and gravel beaches or gravelly soil, usually during late afternoon and evening from early June to early July.

Females produce from 10 to 12 eggs each year. Hatchlings emerge during September and October.

Raccoons are a major predator on the eggs. They find and dig up nests. Raccoon populations have been increasing in Kejimkujik, and so was predation. Since 1987, known turtle nest sites have been caged to try to protect the eggs.

Blanding's turtles are believed to live to be more than 75 years old, and to start reproducing at 15 years old.

Fresh Water and Land Turtles

Eastern Painted Turtle

Wood Turtle

Common Snapping Turtle

Blanding's Turtle

Sea Turtles

Atlantic Leatherback Turtle

Atlantic Ridley Turtle

Atlantic Loggerhead Turtle

Turtle Information

Observing Nova Scotia Turtles