Blanding's Turtle Jesse W. Jaycox

Blanding's Turtle
Jesse W. Jaycox

Class
Chelonia (Turtles)
Family
Emydidae (Box Turtles and Pond Turtles)
State Protection
Threatened
Listed as Threatened by New York State: likely to become Endangered in the foreseeable future. For animals, taking, importation, transportation, or possession is prohibited, except under license or permit. For plants, removal or damage without the consent of the landowner is prohibited.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
S2S3
Imperiled or Vulnerable in New York - Very vulnerable, or vulnerable, to disappearing from New York, due to rarity or other factors; typically 6 to 80 populations or locations in New York, few individuals, restricted range, few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or recent and widespread declines. More information is needed to assign either S2 or S3.
Global Conservation Status Rank
G4
Apparently Secure globally - Uncommon in the world but not rare; usually widespread, but may be rare in some parts of its range; possibly some cause for long-term concern due to declines or other factors.

Summary

Did you know?

Sex determination in Blanding's Turtles is temperature dependent. Research conducted by Gutzke and Packard (1987) found that when eggs are incubated at 31.0 degrees Celsius (87.8 degrees Fahrenheit), all of the hatchlings were female. If the eggs were incubated at 26.5 degrees Celsius (79.7 degrees Fahrenheit), all of the hatchlings turned out to be male.

State Ranking Justification

There are currently 64 extant Blanding's Turtle occurrences in Dutchess, Saratoga, St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Niagara, and Erie counties. Given the mobility of this species, there are many closely associated sites that should be considered as single populations. Taking this into consideration, many of the Dutchess, St. Lawrence, and Jefferson County populations would be combined into single occurrences and many of these occurrences are threatened by habitat fragmentation from development and associated mortality from automobiles and predation.

Short-term Trends

Although new populations have been identified in recent years, Blanding's Turtle populations are believed to have been in decline for many decades. Some of the populations are in areas of the state that are subject to intense development pressure, which may lead to habitat fragmentation, increased road mortality, and compromised wetland quality.

Long-term Trends

Because of the long life span of this species, it is difficult to assess long-term trends. Given the disjunct nature of New York populations and evidence of remains farther south than the species is known to occur at present, an overall decline in the population is likely.

Conservation and Management

Threats

Threats include loss of wetland and upland habitat, hydrological changes to wetlands, habitat fragmentation, obstructions to dispersal, road mortality, subsidized predators, and illegal collection.

Research Needs

Additional radio-telemetry studies will help determine the full extent of the habitat used and identify critical habitat areas.

Habitat

Habitat

This species prefers shallow wetlands such as shrub swamps, marshes, and shallow ponds. Vernal pools are used in the spring. Blanding's Turtles will frequently travel through uplands and cross roads, especially during the nesting period or when moving between wetlands.

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Appalachian oak-hickory forest (guide)
    A hardwood forest that occurs on well-drained sites, usually on ridgetops, upper slopes, or south- and west-facing slopes. The soils are usually loams or sandy loams. This is a broadly defined forest community with several regional and edaphic variants. The dominant trees include red oak, white oak, and/or black oak. Mixed with the oaks, usually at lower densities, are pignut, shagbark, and/or sweet pignut hickory.
  • Appalachian oak-pine forest (guide)
    A mixed forest that occurs on sandy soils, sandy ravines in pine barrens, or on slopes with rocky soils that are well-drained. The canopy is dominated by a mixture of oaks and pines.
  • Deep emergent marsh (guide)
    A marsh community flooded by waters that are not subject to violent wave action. Water depths can range from 6 in to 6.6 ft (15 cm to 2 m). Water levels may fluctuate seasonally, but the substrate is rarely dry, and there is usually standing water in the fall.
  • Hemlock-northern hardwood forest (guide)
    A mixed forest that typically occurs on middle to lower slopes of ravines, on cool, mid-elevation slopes, and on moist, well-drained sites at the margins of swamps. Eastern hemlock is present and is often the most abundant tree in the forest.
  • Medium fen (guide)
    A wetland fed by water from springs and seeps. These waters are slightly acidic (pH values generally range from 4.5 to 6.5) and contain some dissolved minerals. Plant remains in these fens do not decompose rapidly and thus the plants in these fens usually grow on older, undecomposed plant parts of woody material, grasses, and mosses.
  • Northern white cedar swamp* (guide)
    A swamp that occurs on organic soils in cool, poorly drained depressions in central and northern New York, and along lakes and streams in the northern half of the state. These swamps are often spring-fed with continually saturated soils. Soils are often rich in calcium. The characteristic tree is northern white cedar, which makes up more than 30% of the canopy cover. * probable association but not confirmed.
  • Oak-tulip tree forest* (guide)
    A hardwood forest that occurs on moist, well-drained sites in southeastern New York. The dominant trees include a mixture of five or more of the following: red oak, tulip tree, American beech, black birch, red maple, scarlet oak, black oak, and white oak. * probable association but not confirmed.
  • Pitch pine-oak-heath rocky summit (guide)
    A community that occurs on warm, dry, rocky ridgetops and summits where the bedrock is non-calcareous (such as quartzite, sandstone, or schist), and the soils are more or less acidic. This community is broadly defined and includes examples that may lack pines and are dominated by scrub oak and/or heath shrubs apparently related to fire regime.
  • Shallow emergent marsh* (guide)
    A marsh meadow community that occurs on soils that are permanently saturated and seasonally flooded. This marsh is better drained than a deep emergent marsh; water depths may range from 6 in to 3.3 ft (15 cm to 1 m) during flood stages, but the water level usually drops by mid to late summer and the soil is exposed during an average year. * probable association but not confirmed.
  • Shrub swamp (guide)
    An inland wetland dominated by tall shrubs that occurs along the shore of a lake or river, in a wet depression or valley not associated with lakes, or as a transition zone between a marsh, fen, or bog and a swamp or upland community. Shrub swamps are very common and quite variable.

Associated Species

  • Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)
  • Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta)
  • Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata) (guide)

Range

New York State Distribution

Blanding's Turtles have been found in Dutchess, Saratoga, St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Niagara, and Erie counties. Existing data indicates that the species is only found within a portion of each of these counties.

Global Distribution

Blanding's Turtle populations are centered in the Great Lakes region and the species ranges from Minnesota, southeastern South Dakota, and central Nebraska eastward through Iowa, northern Missouri, northern and central Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan (both upper and lower peninsulas), northern and southwestern Indiana, and northern Ohio to northwestern Pennsylvania, northern and western New York, southeastern Ontario, and southwestern Quebec, with disjunct populations in eastern and southeastern New York, eastern New England (Massachusetts to southern Maine), and Nova Scotia (Conant and Collins 1991, Coffin and Pfannmuller 1988, Harding 1997, Iverson 1992, and Vogt 1981).

Best Places to See

  • Blanding's turtles are currently on display at Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery and Aquarium in Cold Spring Harbor, New York (http://www.cshfha.org/) (Nassau County)
  • As this species is considered sensitive by the NYS DEC, site specific locations are not made available.

Identification Comments

Identifying Characteristics

This is a medium to large turtle with a carapace (upper shell) length of 5 to 10 inches (12.5-26.0 cm) (Ernst and Barbour 1972). The black carapace is elongated, domed, and smooth and is speckled with numerous yellow or light-colored flecks or streaks. The plastron (lower shell) is bright yellow, with large, dark, symmetrically arranged blotches on the posterior lateral third of each scute (bony plate) and these blotches may hide the yellow color on older adults. A well-developed hinge lies between the pectoral and abdominal scutes on the plastron, but the hinge may not always be apparent on young turtles (Conant 1951). The head is large, black or dark brown in color, and may have scattered yellow spots. This species has a long neck with a yellow throat and chin. The yellow undersurface of the neck appears at 3 years of age (Vogt 1981). The tail and limbs are dark with some yellow or light brown spots and the hind feet are weakly webbed.

Characters Most Useful for Identification

The bright yellow coloration of the chin and throat is a useful diagnostic characteristic that can be used on both captured and observed individuals.

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

Adults and juveniles are similar in appearance and can be identified by the yellow chin and throat.

Diet

Blanding's Turtles are omnivorous (Graham and Doyle 1977) and will eat food both in and out of the water (Pope 1939, Vogt 1981). For turtles in New England and Michigan, crayfish and other crustaceans were documented to comprise about 50% of the diet, insects 25%, and other invertebrates and vegetable matter 25% (Lagler 1943, DeGraaf and Rudis 1983). Turtles in Missouri are primarily carnivorous, specializing in crayfish, followed by insects. Fish, fish eggs, and frogs have also been documented as food items, with small amounts of duckweed and algae always in association with animal food (Kofron and Schreiber 1985). In Nova Scotia where crayfish are absent, Blanding's Turtles eat dragonfly nymphs, aquatic beetles, and other aquatic insects, as well as snails and some fish (Bleakney 1963). The quality of the diet may be the most important factor influencing growth. Evidence suggests that turtles from eutrophic environments grow faster and achieve larger maximum size on a carnivorous diet than do turtles on an herbivorous diet. Size differences between Michigan and Massachusetts populations have been explained by differences in food quality and availability, which affect growth rates (Natureserve 2006, Graham and Doyle 1977). Blanding's turtles have been observed consuming pondweed seeds (Potamogeton sp.), golden shiners (Notemigonus crysoleucas), and brown bullheads (Ictalurus nebulosus) where high nutrient levels from sewage effluent have stimulated the growth of high protein foods in Massachusetts (Graham and Doyle 1977).

Best Time to See

Blanding's Turtles are generally inactive during cold winter months in the north. They are primarily active during the day, however they will alter their activity patterns based on the ambient tempurature. In Massachusetts (Graham 1979), daily activity is bimodal during warmer weather and unimodal when the temperature drops. At 25 C the turtles have a short activity period from 5:00 to 6:00 AM EST, then rest until noon with a larger period of afternoon activity lasting until approximately 5:00 PM EST. When the temperature falls to 15 C the turtles show a continuous 8:00 to 5:00 "workday". However, the amount of total movement, movement per hour, and diet activity is greater at 25 C than 15 C, probably due to metabolism changes associated with changes in body temperature (Graham 1979). In Massachusetts, active dispersal of hatchlings from nests to wetlands occurred primarily in early to mid-morning and in late afternoon (Butler and Graham 1995).

  • Present
  • Reproducing

The time of year you would expect to find Blanding's Turtle present and reproducing in New York.

Similar Species

  • Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata) (guide)
    Spotted Turtles may be confused with juvenile Blanding's Turtles, but this species has fewer, well separated yellow spots and no plastral hinge (Conant and Collins 1998). Spotted Turtles do not have the yellow chin and throat coloration that is characteristic of Blanding's Turtles and they are also much smaller in size than adult Blanding's Turtles.
  • Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina)
    Eastern Box Turtles are similar to Blanding's Turtles in that they also have a plastral hinge, but unlike Blanding's Turtles, Box Turtles can close up tightly (Conant and Collins 1998). Box Turtles also have a hooked beak (Conant and Collins 1998) and do not have the yellow chin and throat coloration that is characteristic of Blanding's Turtles.

Blanding's Turtle Images

Taxonomy

Blanding's Turtle
Emydoidea blandingii (Holbrook, 1838)

  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phylum Craniata
      • Class Chelonia (Turtles)
        • Order Cryptodeira (Turtles)
          • Family Emydidae (Box Turtles and Pond Turtles)

Synonyms

  • Emys blandingii (Holbrook, 1838)

Additional Resources

References

Adams, M. S., and H. F. Clarke. 1958. A herpetofaunal survey of Long Point, Ontario, Canada. Herpetologica 14(1):8-10.

Bickham, J. W., T. Lamb, P. Minx, and J. C. Patton. 1996. Molecular systematics of the genus Clemmys and the intergeneric relationships of emydid turtles. Herpetologica 52:89-97.

Bleakney, J. S. 1963. Notes on the distribution and life histories of turtles in Nova Scotia. Can. Field-Nat. 77(2): 67-76.

Brown, J. R. 1927. A Blanding's turtle lays its eggs. Canadian Field Naturalist XLI(7):185.

Carr, A. 1952. Handbook of turtles. Comstock Publishing Associates, Ithaca, New York. 542 pp.

Coffin, B., and L. Pfannmuller, editors. 1988. Minnesota's endangered flora and fauna. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota. 473 pp.

Conant, R. 1951. The reptiles of Ohio. Second edition. American Midland Naturalist 20:1-284.

Conant, R., and J. T. Collins. 1991. A field guide to reptiles and amphibians: Eastern and central North America. Third edition. The Peterson Field Guide Series No. 12. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York. 450 pp. plus color plates.

Conant, R., and J. T. Collins. 1998. A field guide to reptiles and amphibians: eastern and central North America. Third edition, expanded. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, Massachusetts. 616 pp.

Cook, F. R. 1984. Introduction to Canadian amphibians and reptiles. National Museum of Natural Sciences, National Museums of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.

DeGraaf, R. M., and D. D. Rudis. 1983. Amphibians and reptiles of New England. Habitats and natural history. Univ. Massachusetts Press. vii + 83 pp.

Ernst, C. H., R. W. Barbour, and J. E. Lovich. 1994. Turtles of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. xxxviii + 578 pp.

Ernst, C. H., and R. W. Barbour. 1972. Turtles of the United States. Univ. Press of Kentucky, Lexington. x + 347 pp.

Ewert, M. A. 1979. The embryo and its egg. Pages 333-413 in M. Harless and H. Morlock, editors. Turtles: Perspectives and Research. John Wiley and Sons, New York.

Feldman, C. R., and J. F. Parham. 2002. Molecular phylogenetics of emydine turtles: taxonomic revision and the evolution of shell kinesis. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 22:388-398.

Graham, T. E., and T. S. Doyle. 1977. Growth and population characteristics of Blanding's turtles EMYDOIDEA BLANDINGII in Massachusetts. Herpetologica 33:410-414.

Gutzke, W. H. N., and G. C. Packard. 1987. The influence of temperature on eggs and hatchlings of Blanding's turtles, EMYDOIDEA BLANDINGII. Journal of Herpetology 21:161-163.

Harding, J. H. 1997. Amphibians and reptiles of the Great Lakes region. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor. xvi + 378 pp.

Herman, T. B., T. D. Power, and B. R. Eaton. 1995. Status of Blanding's turtles, EMYDOIDEA BLANDINGII, in Nova Scotia, Canada. Canadian Field-Naturalist 109:182-191.

Iverson, J. B. 1992. A revised checklist with distribution maps of the turtles of the world. Privately printed. Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana.

Kiviat, Erik. 1985. Blanding's turtle preliminary population survey at the Nature Conservancy Jolis Trade Lands property, New York. Unpublished report to The Nature Conservancy. 13 pp.

Kofron, C. P., and A. A. Schreiber. 1985. Ecology of two endangered aquatic turtles in Missouri: KINOSTERNON FLAVESCENS and EMYDOIDEA BLANDINGII. J. Herpetol. 19:27-40.

Lagler, K. F. 1943. Food habits and economic relations of turtles of Michigan with special reference to fish management. American Midland Naturalist 29(2):257-312.

Moriarty, J. J. 1988. Studying the turtle with the yellow throat. The Minnesota Volunteer May-June:37-40.

NatureServe. 2006. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 4.7. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available http://www.natureserve.org/explorer. (Accessed: March 28, 2006).

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2019. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources. 2006. Blanding's Turtle fact sheet.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Fish, Wildlife, and Marine Resources. 2006. New York State Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. Albany, NY: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. 1985. Checklist of the amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals of New York State, including their protective status. Nongame Unit. Wildlife Resources Center. Delmar, NY.

Penn, G. H. 1950. Utilization of crawfishes by cold-blooded vertebrates in the eastern United States. American Midland Naturalist 44:643-658.

Piepgras, S. A., and J. W. Lang. 2000. Spatial ecology of Blanding's turtle in central Minnesota. Chelonian Conservation and Biology 3:589-601.

Pope, C.H. 1939. Turtles of the United States and Canada. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 343 pp.

Reilly, E.M., Jr. 1958. Turtles of New York. New York State Conservationist.

Standing, K. L., T. B. Herman, M. Shallow, T. Power, and I. P. Morrison. 2000. Results of the nest protection program for Blanding's turtles in Kejimkujik National Park, Canada: 1987-1997. Chelonian Conservation and Biology 3:637-642.

Standing, K. L., T. B. Herman, and I. P. Morrison. 1999. Nesting ecology of Blanding's turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) in Nova Scotia, the northeastern limit of the species' range. Canadian Journal of Zoology 77:1609-1614.

Vogt, R. C. 1981c. Natural history of amphibians and reptiles of Wisconsin. Milwaukee Public Museum. 205 pp.

Links

About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: July 1, 2019

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2019. Online Conservation Guide for Emydoidea blandingii. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/blandings-turtle/. Accessed July 17, 2019.

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