South Dakota State Reptile
Blanding's Turtle (common name)
Emydoidea blandingii (scientific name)
The only species in the Emydoidea genus, Blanding’s turtle is a semi-aquatic, medium-sized turtle usually found in shallow, weedy water. It’s usually shy and non-aggressive and will take cover underwater or pull into its shell when disturbed or frightened. It looks similar to both box and spotted turtles, but is larger and is also distinguishable by its yellow chin and neck. Blanding’s turtle often shares its habitat with other turtles, especially the painted turtle. Blanding’s turtle is the state turtle of Wisconsin.
A Blanding’s turtle’s most distinctive feature is its bright yellow throat and chin, coloring that the turtle develops when it’s about three years old. Less visible from a distance is a black marking along its upper jaw. Its limbs are otherwise black, though they sometimes have yellow speckling. Its deep olive, yellow-speckled shell is oblong, domed, and somewhat flattened along the midline.
The underside of the shell is yellow with dark blotches around the edge. Shell color fades with age. A Blanding’s turtle can withdraw its head and feet into its hinged shell and close it, though not as tightly as some other turtles. Young turtles can’t close their shells fully until they’re about three to five years old. The yellow pattern on the shell fades as the turtle grows old.
Up to 80 years in the wild
Shallow waters with dense vegetation and soft bottoms including marshes, creeks, ponds, and lakes. Also requires open, sandy places for nesting.
Range: The Great Lakes area from Minnesota south into Nebraska, north into Ontario and Quebec, and east as far as New York. Also isolated populations in Nova Scotia.
Conservation status: Habitat loss and fragmentation are the Blanding’s turtle’s primary problems. Though it has no federal status, it’s listed as threatened, endangered, or of special concern in states and provinces throughout its range.
Blanding’s turtles need a fair amount of space. When possible, these turtles like to move from one marsh to another during their active season. Breeding season is April and May, and males chase the females in water, hoping for an opportunity to mate. Though males mate every year, most females produce eggs every other year or even less often. A female Blanding’s also leaves her marsh to build her nest in sandy soil in an open, sunny area. She digs the nest after dark, and can lay up to 12 eggs. She may need up to seven days on land to find a suitable place to build a nest, after which she returns to water.
Eggs hatch about two months later, and newborn turtles make for the water on their own. This turtle takes 14 to 20 years to reach maturity. A Blanding’s turtle spends most of its time basking and foraging, though its timid nature means that it spends more time hiding underwater than similar turtles. As weather gets colder, this turtle moves to deeper water and digs itself into the mud to hibernate.
Invertebrates, frogs, fish, carrion, berries, crayfish, and plant matter.
Breeding interval: Annual
Birthing period: August-September
Average nest size: 10
Size at birth: 1.4 in (3 cm)
Click to enlarge an image
Raw Data Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Author: World Trade Press