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Species at Risk

Blanding's Turtle

Emydoidea blandingii

What is a Blanding's Turtle?

Blanding’s turtle basking in the sun on a river bank
Blanding's turtle basking in the sun on a river bank
© Parks Canada / James Steeves / 1986

Blanding's turtles are medium-sized freshwater turtles. Adults have dark-green, high-domed shells with yellow flecks. Their undersides are yellow with black patches. They have black scaly skin and are easily identified by their distinctive yellow throats.

Blanding's turtles have a variety of seasonal habitats. In the summer, they prefer boggy, plant-filled, stable water bodies such as shallow lakes, wetlands and slow-moving streams and rivers. In this habitat, they are able to find a steady food source and stay camouflaged from predators.

Blanding's habitat, a river running through a bog
Blanding's habitat, a river running through a bog
© Parks Canada / Peter Hope / 1977

In the winter, they prefer streams with steep banks and deep, constantly flowing water. They also overwinter in small ponds that are spring-fed. They keep their rectum in the flowing water and use it for gas exchange (breathing).

Blanding's turtles in Nova Scotia tend to eat from all levels of the food chain. They eat aquatic plants, insects, tadpoles and small fish.

Where do Blanding's turtles live?

Blanding's turtles occur in small pockets throughout their range. Their main range is south of the Great Lakes, extending from extreme southern Quebec and Ontario, south and west to central Nebraska and east to Ohio. Outside this range, small populations occur in several areas, the most isolated are in southwestern Nova Scotia.

Three distinct sub-populations of Blanding's turtles are found within a 30-kilometre span in the southwestern part of Nova Scotia . The largest sub-population makes Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site of Canada its home. The other two populations occur at McGowan Lake and New Elm, 15 and 25 kilometres outside the park, respectively. These three small populations are estimated to contain only 300 adults in Nova Scotia.

What's the status of Blanding's turtles in Nova Scotia?

A Blanding's turtle swimming through lily pads
A Blanding's turtle swimming through lily pads
© Parks Canada / James Steeves / 2002

The Nova Scotia population of Blanding's turtle is listed as threatened by COSEWIC, and is protected under federal law by the Species at Risk Act. Blanding's turtles are also protected under provincial legislation, by the Nova Scotia Endangered Species Act, under which they are listed as endangered.

These listings are different because the different levels of government list species under their own set of criteria based on priorities within their jurisdictions.