Monday, November 9, 2009

Blanding's Turtle an Endangered Treasure

The bright yellow throat and pointed facial features of the Blanding's Turtle give it an unmistakable look among the many turtles that live in Canada's rivers, lakes and ponds. The carapace (top shell) can reach a length of up to 27 cm and is normally dark brown or black, with tan or yellow spots or lines across it. The plastron (bottom shell) is normally bright yellow.

In Canada, distinct populations of the Blanding's Turtle occur in southwestern Qu├ębec, southern Ontario and central-southwest Nova Scotia. The Canadian distributions account for 20% of the species' global range.

During the summer months, this turtle can be found in many different types of freshwater areas, from lakes and slow-moving streams to marshes and swamps. Blanding's Turtles prefer shallow water, rich in nutrients and dense with vegetation; adults will be found in open areas, while juveniles will congregate in heavily vegetated areas close to the water's edge.

Although this species is considered to be primarily aquatic, members will spend a great deal of time on land basking and looking for nesting sites, travelling great distances while doing so.

Natural threats to this species include predators such as coyotes, skunks, foxes and raccoons raiding nesting sites, as full-grown turtles will deter predatory animals with their overall size and the strength of the carapace. Without sufficiently warm temperatures during the summer months, nests can also fail.

Increased human activity has fragmented and degraded the Blanding's Turtle's habitat. Wetland development reduces the amount of habitat available to the turtle and may change the water flows in the area. Increases in road construction and traffic circulation lead to higher chances that vehicles will strike turtles, severely injuring or killing them, or destroy nests that are often found in loose roadside gravel.

What You Can Do

  • Protect Canada's waterways and habitats that the Blanding's Turtle calls home.

  • If you find a turtle on a busy pathway or road and believe it is in danger, move it to a safer location nearby. Lift the turtle by the side edges of its carapace and move it in the direction it is traveling.

Read more of the Blanding's Turtle's story, including interesting species facts and additional actions you can take, in our endangered species profile.

Photo by Beatrice Laporte