Return to the Wild - Evolving perspectives on Canadian wildlife
In Canada, the Blanding's turtle is found in southwestern Quebec, southern Ontario and southern Nova Scotia.

Did you know?

The temperature in the nest of a Blanding’s turtle determines the gender of the hatchlings: eggs incubated at a low temperature produce males, while a higher temperature produces females.

Scientific name: Emydoidea blandingii
Average weight: 1.3 kg
Average length: 18 cm–25 cm (male slightly larger than female) (shell)
Average lifespan: 70 years+
A Blanding's turtle moves along the sandy ground.

About

Biology

The turtle is named after Dr. William Blanding, the Philadelphia naturalist who first observed this mid-sized species. Easily recognized by its bright yellow throat and jaw, the Blanding’s turtle appears to have a permanent “smile,” due to a notch in its upper jaw. Its moderately high-domed top shell, or carapace, resembles a military helmet and is dark green to black. The lower shell, the plastron, is yellow with large black blotches. The plastron is semi-hinged, allowing the turtle to pull in its head, limbs and tail for protection without fully closing.

As one of the longest-lived turtles in the world, it is also one of the slowest to mature. It does not reach reproductive maturity until about 16 to 17 years of age.

Habitat and behaviour

The Blanding’s turtle is mostly active during the day, especially in the morning. At night, it often sleeps suspended in or below aquatic vegetation. Although a water-loving creature, the Blanding’s turtle can often be found basking in the sunlight while perched on a log, a steep bank, a ditch or cattail debris, either alone or with others.

This freshwater reptile usually prefers plant-filled shallow waters, such as lakes, ponds, wetlands and slow-moving streams, although in winter, it is sometimes found in deeper waters. A large portion of its time may be spent in upland areas as it moves between wetlands in search of food or a mate. During the mating season, the female may seek drier land, such as beaches and ditches. This highly mobile turtle has been known to travel up to seven kilometres in a single season.

The Blanding’s turtle is an omnivore, whose diet includes frogs and other small vertebrates, as well as crayfish, insects, snails and leeches. Its eggs and young are preyed upon by raccoons, skunks, foxes and ravens. In fact, less than one percent of the hatchlings survive to adulthood. When mature, the Blanding’s turtle is largely free from predation, with the exception of encounters with humans.

Roads are a primary cause of mortality in the Blanding’s turtle population. Turtles often cross roads when travelling between wetlands, and it is not uncommon for a female to nest alongside a road. Poaching and destruction of wetlands have further threatened the species, which is now endangered in Nova Scotia and threatened in the rest of its Canadian range. Actions have been taken to protect the Blanding’s turtle under the federal government’s Species at Risk Act as well as within designated national parks and provinces.

Range

Because the Blanding’s turtle prefers cold temperatures, it is restricted to northern latitudes. In Canada, populations occur in southwestern Quebec and southern Ontario, especially through the Great Lakes region, with a few isolated populations in the southwestern interior of Nova Scotia. The Canadian range accounts for 20 percent of the species’ global distribution.