Species at Risk

Blanding's Turtle

Emydoidea blandingii

What is Parks Canada doing to save the Blanding's turtle?

To protect Blanding's turtles, Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site is actively involved in recovery actions, research, public education and partnerships.

Recovery Actions

The protection provided by Kejimkujik has been a key factor in preserving Nova Scotia's Blanding's turtle population. All Blanding's turtle habitat in the park receives the highest level of protection. In these areas of special protection, no development or recreational activities may occur. A major trail, which once went through a popular nesting beach, was removed so that females can nest undisturbed.

Volunteers checking nest enclosures
Volunteers checking nest enclosures
© Parks Canada / James Steeves / 2002

Throughout June, park staff, researchers and volunteers monitor all known nesting sites in Kejimkujik and at McGowan Lake and New Elm. They observe adult nesting females turtles in order to identify their nesting locations. Once the females have laid their eggs, the nests are covered with a wire-mesh enclosure to protect them from predators.

In the fall, the hatchlings emerge and must be released from the enclosure. Nests are checked daily and hatchlings are counted, measured, marked and released.

A head-started hatchling with a radio transmitter
A "head-started" hatchling with a radio transmitter
© Parks Canada / Peter Hope / 1993

Park staff and researchers have "head-started" hatchlings several times. This involved keeping hatchlings over the winter and providing them with care, food and a warm environment. Most of these hatchlings more than doubled in size in this time period. When released, they had a very high survival rate and could be tracked by radio because of their larger size.

Park visitors and local residents have been educated about the importance of this rare turtle and have been encouraged to report Blanding's turtle sightings to park staff and researchers. This is largely due to a poster campaign launched by the Blanding's Turtle Recovery Team to help locate new turtle locations.

A bog - perfect turtle habit
A bog - perfect turtle habit
© Parks Canada / James Steeves / 2002

The community outreach efforts by the recovery team were acknowledged when Bowater Mersey Paper Company Ltd. designated McGowan Lake a Unique Area , to protect the turtle and its habitat, in spring 2003.

Research

Research and monitoring within Kejimkujik improve our understanding of this turtle's biology and how Parks Canada can help protect it.

A park warden makes notes about a turtle
A park warden makes notes about a turtle
© Parks Canada / James Steeves / 2002

Park staff and researchers monitor and record turtle numbers and movements through a "mark and recapture" system that identifies individual turtles. Radio-tracking studies have also helped clarify where these reptiles travel and what habitats they use throughout the summer as well as for nesting and overwintering.

In cooperation with Acadia University and the Centre of Geographic Studies, a number of field studies are being conducted inside and outside the park. These studies hope to find more turtles and improve our understanding of the Blanding's turtle's habitat requirements in all three sub-populations and identify any behavioural differences among them.

A researcher watches a female Blanding's turtle nest
A researcher watches a female Blanding's turtle nest
© Parks Canada / Peter Hope / 1999

Researchers, volunteers and park staff are examining the behaviour and survivorship of hatchlings and juveniles within each of the three sub-populations. These studies also hope to identify what habitats the younger turtles prefer. This research will indicate if these sub-populations are increasing.

Other studies will further examine the genetic diversity of these turtles in Nova Scotia and their response to environmental change. This information will be important for protecting Blanding's turtles and their habitat in the future.

Public Education

Parks Canada interpreters interest visitors by presenting guided programs in Kejimkujik about the natural history, habitat and protection of the Blanding's turtle. The programs, including guided walks, canoe trips and theatre presentations, aim to help people develop an appreciation and respect for the species.

A park interpreter talks about Blanding's turtles using a model
A park interpreter talks about Blanding's turtles using a model
© Parks Canada / Peter Hope / 2002

Kejimkujik also offers a variety of information, through theatre presentations, interpretative signs, videos, Web sites and brochures, to help people learn about Blanding's turtles and species at risk in southwest Nova Scotia . Programs are also delivered to local schools to improve the students' understanding of species at risk , the concerns for their survival and how the students can help.

Park staff and recovery team members have worked with local landowners and land-use planners at community meetings and special event days to help educate the local community about the Blanding's turtle and its lifestyle.

Blanding's turtles have a semi-hinged plastron (bottom). This means they can pull their head and legs into the shell and move the plastron towards the carapace (top). This action partially closes the shell. In this regard, they are similar to box turtles, which can completely close their shell.

Working with Partners

The Blanding's Turtle Recovery Team has updated the National Recovery Plan for the Blanding's Turtle ( Emydoidea blandingii ) Nova Scotia Population and has completed a Communication Action Plan for the turtle. These plans recommend actions to improve the conservation, recovery and management of this species. They will itemize and define protection strategies for Blanding's turtles both within and beyond the Park boundaries.

Parks Canada is a member of the recovery team, which consists of a variety of representatives, including:

  • Acadia University;
  • Bowater Mersey Paper Company Limited;
  • Dalhousie University;
  • Nova Scotia Power Incorporated;
  • Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources;
  • Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, and
  • private individuals.

Parks Canada and the recovery team also work with a number of other partners in an effort to recover the Blanding's turtle, including:

  • the Centre of Geographic Studies;
  • the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre;
  • local museums;
  • private landowners;
  • volunteers, and
  • the interested public.