Plants and Animals

Emydoidea blandingii Blanding's turtle

species photo
John T. Legge
species photo
Jim H. Harding

Key Characteristics

The Blanding’s Turtle is a medium-sized turtle with adult carapace lengths ranging from 6 to 11 inches (15-28 cm). The carapace (i.e, top part of shell) is usually black with yellowish spots and streaks and is dome-like, elongated, and smooth. The plastron (i.e., bottom part of shell) typically is yellow with a dark blotch at the outer corner of each scute or scale. The Blanding’s Turtle has a very long neck and a bright yellow chin and throat. The head is dark with brown or yellow spots, and is relatively flat with a short, rounded snout and a notched upper jaw, giving the appearance of a permanent grin.

Status and Rank

US Status:
State Status: SC - Special Concern (rare or uncertain; not legally protected)
Global Rank: G4 - Apparently secure
State Rank: S2S3 - Rank is uncertain, ranging from imperiled to vulnerable

Occurrences

CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Alcona162015
Allegan52013
Alpena32018
Arenac12007
Barry122018
Bay32012
Benzie22018
Berrien62009
Calhoun82018
Cass42018
Charlevoix12015
Cheboygan22017
Chippewa12002
Clare72018
Clinton32002
Crawford32004
Delta12005
Dickinson12013
Eaton52018
Emmet22000
Genesee52018
Gladwin42018
Grand Traverse12017
Gratiot12017
Hillsdale32014
Huron22016
Ingham112018
Ionia42018
Iosco122010
Iron12003
Isabella52018
Jackson112018
Kalamazoo82018
Kalkaska42005
Kent42016
Lake42013
Lapeer52012
Lenawee11997
Livingston92018
Mackinac12005
Manistee62011
Marquette12011
Mason112018
Mecosta72018
Missaukee22018
Monroe12018
Montcalm62018
Montmorency82015
Muskegon42011
Newaygo132016
Oakland382018
Oceana62013
Ogemaw32006
Osceola32003
Oscoda32011
Otsego12018
Ottawa52014
Presque Isle31998
Roscommon22018
Saginaw52015
Sanilac12003
Schoolcraft11989
Shiawassee82012
St. Clair52014
St. Joseph22009
Tuscola52016
Van Buren82006
Washtenaw182018
Wayne32016
Wexford32002

Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.

Habitat

Blanding’s Turtles inhabit clean, shallow waters with abundant aquatic vegetation and soft muddy bottoms over firm substrates. This species is found in ponds, marshes, swamps, bogs, wet prairies, river backwaters, embayments, sloughs, slow-moving rivers, and lake shallows and inlets. Blanding’s Turtles also occupy terrestrial habitats in the spring and summer during the mating and nesting seasons and in the fall to a lesser extent. Females nest in open uplands adjacent to wetland habitats, preferring sunny areas with moist but well-drained sandy or loamy soil. They will nest in lawns, gardens, plowed fields or even gravel road embankments if suitable natural nesting habitat is not available.

Specific Habitat Needs

Downed woody debris needed in: BogCoastal plain marshEmergent marshFloodplain forestGreat Lakes marshInundated shrub swampNorthern fenNorthern wet meadowPrairie fenRich conifer swampRich tamarack swampSouthern hardwood swampSouthern wet meadowSubmergent marshWet prairieWet-mesic sand prairie.

For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Management Recommendations

The most critical conservation need for this species is protection and management of suitable wetland and adjacent upland habitats. Maintaining good water quality, restricting herbicide and pesticide use in or near wetlands, implementing minimum development set-back distances, leaving buffer zones during timber harvest, grazing and agricultural operations, and minimizing the construction of roads in or near suitable wetlands would be beneficial to this species. Timber harvesting can benefit this species by creating or maintaining open habitat conditions for thermoregulation and nesting. Minimizing adult mortality or removal is crucial for population viability given this species’ life history. Thus, habitat management activities should be conducted in such a manner so as to minimize the potential for causing take of adults (e.g., timber harvesting during the inactive season). Minimizing road mortality and illegal collection also would beneficial to this species. In some cases, on-site protection of nest sites and predator control may be necessary to facilitate or increase successful reproduction or population recruitment.

Active Period

Breeding from first week of April to fourth week of October

Active from first week of April to fourth week of October

Nesting from fourth week of May to fourth week of June

Survey Methods

Although Blanding’s Turtles can be seen anytime during the active season, the best time to survey for this species is in May and June during the mating and nesting seasons when the turtles are most active. Blanding’s Turtles generally are active during the day, and most active in the morning. However, during hot summer weather, they may limit their activities to early morning and evening or even become nocturnal. In addition to visual surveys, Blanding’s Turtles also can be trapped throughout the active season using baited aquatic traps (e.g., hoop and net traps) and terrestrial drift fences.

Trapping with aquatic traps

Survey Period: From first week of April to fourth week of October

Visual encounter surveys

Survey Period: From first week of May to fourth week of June

Time of Day: Daytime
Cloud Cover: Clear
Air Temperature: Above 60 degrees
Wind: Light Breeze

References

Survey References

  • Karns, D.R. 1986. Field Herpetology: Methods for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles in Minnesota. Occ. Pap. No. 18. J.F. Bell Museum of Natural History, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
  • Kofron, C.P. and A.A. Schreiber. 1985. Ecology of two endangered aquatic turtles in Missouri: Kinosternon flavescens and Emydoidea blandingii. Journal of Herpetology 19(1):27-40.

Technical References

  • Congdon, J.D., D.W. Tinkle, G.L. Breitenbach, and R.C. van Loben Sels. 1983. Nesting ecology and hatching success in the turtle Emydoidea blandingii. Herpetologica 39(4): 417-429. hatching success in the turtle Emydoidea blandingii. Herpetologica 39(4): 417-429. hatching success in the turtle Emydoidea blandingii. Herpetologica 39(4): 417-429.
  • Ernst, C.H., J.E. Lovich, and R.W. Barbour. 1994. Turtles of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 578pp.
  • Harding, J.H. 1997.Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great Lakes Region. The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor. 378pp.
  • Lee, Y. 1999. Special Animal Abstract for Emydoidea blandingii (Blanding’s turtle). Michigan Natural Features Inventory, Lansing, MI. 3pp. Features Inventory. Lansing, MI. 4 pp. Features Inventory. Lansing, MI. 4 pp.
  • Minton, S.A. 1972. Amphibians and Reptiles of Indiana. Indiana Academy of Science, Indianapolis. 3: 346pp.
  • Smith, P.W. 1961. The amphibians and reptiles of Illinois. Illinois Natural History Survey, Carbondale. Bulletin No. 28. 298 pp.