Blanding’s turtles have a very domed, smooth black carapace (upper shell) with small, irregular tan or yellow flecking. These markings may be absent or faded in some individuals. The most distinctive characteristic of this species is the bright yellow chin and throat. The hinged plastron (lower shell) is yellow with a large dark blotch in the corner of each scute (enlarged scale on the shell), but may be almost entirely black. In adults, the carapace is up to 28 centimetres in length.
No other Ontario turtle species has a bright yellow chin and throat. Spotted turtles have distinct, vivid yellow spots, and painted and map turtles have fairly flat shells.
Blanding’s turtles, which inhabit shallow lakes, ponds and wetlands with clean water and mucky bottoms, make the largest overland movement of any Ontario turtles, travelling up to several kilometres between summer habitat and nesting sites or overwintering habitat. This species hibernates in the soft bottoms of water bodies. Particularly in the spring, the Blanding’s turtle basks on rocks, logs or substrates in sunny locations.
View an interactive map of the known ranges of Blanding’s turtles in Ontario.
Females of this species do not mature until at least age 14, and individuals can live to be over 75 years old! In late May or early June, the female excavates a nest in a sunny area with good drainage and lays up to 22 eggs in a single clutch. Hatchlings three to four centimetres in length emerge in the fall. The gender of the offspring depends on the incubation temperature of the eggs.
Blanding’s turtles are omnivorous and forage primarily during the day for crayfish, insects, fish, frogs and a variety of plant material. Most aquatic turtles feed exclusively in the water, but Blanding’s turtles also eat on land. When disturbed, they pull in the lobes of their hinged plastron to partially close the shell.
Threats and Trends
The alteration or destruction of wetland habitat has a severe negative impact on Ontario’s remaining populations of Blanding’s turtle. Shoreline development can destroy nesting areas and disturb terrestrial habitat adjacent to water bodies. Vehicles on roads are another serious threat, particularly to females that are in search of, or returning from, nesting sites. This species is one of several endangered native turtles that people remove illegally from the wild for use as food or pets.
Current Status and Protection
The Blanding’s turtle is currently listed as Threatened under the Ontario Endangered Species Act, 2007 and Threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act. The species has also been designated as a Specially Protected Reptile under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. These acts offer protection to individuals and their habitat. The habitat of this species is further protected in Ontario by the Provincial Policy Statement under the Planning Act. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the global status of the Blanding’s turtle as Lower Risk/Near Threatened. The species’ status was last confirmed in 2010. Additional detail about legal protection for species at risk in Ontario is available on our Legal Protection page.
Learn more about reptile and amphibian conservation and what you can do to help these species on our Reptile and Amphibian Stewardship page.