Blanding’s Turtle

The Blanding’s Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) is a species of semi-aquatic turtle. The range of the Blanding’s turtle extended from southern Ontario and northwestern Pennsylvania in the East, through Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and southern Minnesota and is found in Nebraska, Iowa, and extreme northeastern Missouri in the West. While Blanding’s turtles live primarily in marshes and the shallow bays of lakes, they also can be found in shallow, slow-moving rivers, streams, and some bogs.

The Blanding’s Turtle can be easily identified by the bright yellow underside of its neck. Its head, tail, and limbs are blue-black, while the underside of its shell is yellow, with brown or black splotches, and is hinged. Its upper shell is usually black speckled with yellow, or horn colored and mottled with brown. The young are patterned differently from adults; their shells help them blend in with their surrounding environment. The hinge of the Blanding’s turtle’s plastron is not functional until the turtle is 3 to 5 years old. Before this age its yellow throat markings are not apparent. Males are larger than females, have longer tails, and their plastrons are concave for mating. The hinged plastron allows the turtle to close the front half of the shell tightly, protecting the soft flesh of its head, neck, and legs from predators.

Blanding’s Turtle feeds on crustaceans, snails, insects, frogs, and fishes when in water. Crayfish appear to be a preferred food when available. On land it consumes earthworms, slugs, grasses, berries, and succulent vegetation. The Blanding’s turtle is unique because, unlike most turtles, it can swallow food both in and out of the water. During the winter, it hibernates by burying itself in the silt on the bottom of the pond, bay, or river it inhabits which reduces its chances of freezing.

Blanding’s turtles take 15 to 20 years to mature. Mating usually occurs in the water during early spring. After fertilization, females will bask in the sun with their heads and legs fully extended. This warming behavior, called thermoregulation, speeds the development of their eggs enabling them to be laid sooner. This gives the eggs a better chance of hatching before the autumn frost. This, in turn, allows the hatchlings to grow before hibernating, giving the immature turtles a greater chance of surviving the winter.

Like all turtles, this species must lay their eggs on land and prefer a patch of sandy ground for nesting. They will travel up to 1.5 miles from water to nest, and they usually return to the same nesting site each year. They typically lay their eggs during the late afternoon or after dusk. Once they deposit the eggs in the ground, the mothers return to the water, and the sun’s warmth is used to incubate the nested eggs. The clutch may contain from 3 to 17 eggs. It takes 65 – 90 days for the eggs to hatch.

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