Friday, February 1, 2013

Native Species Profile - Blanding's Turtle

Michigan is home to ten species of turtles.

Some species are familiar to many people like the Painted Turtle, Map Turtle, Red-Eared Slider, and Snapping Turtle.  Some are well-known but rarely seen like the Spotted Turtle and Eastern Box Turtle.  A few are less familiar, either because of their scarcity or their secretive nature including the Musk Turtle, Spiny Softshell Turtle, and my two favorites the Wood Turtle and Blanding's Turtle.

The Blanding's Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii or Emys blandingii) is one of three turtle species (Blanding's, Wood, and Eastern Box) listed as a Species of Special Concern by the State of Michigan.  This means that while the Blanding's turtle has no legal protection under the Michigan Endangered Species act it is of concern because of declining populations in the state.  On a side note- the Spotted Turtle is listed as Threatened in Michigan.

As with many reptile species, the biggest threat to the Blanding's Turtle is habitat loss.

The Blanding's Turtle requires both wetlands and nearby upland areas during different parts of its life cycle.  It spends the majority of its life in wetlands, but uses uplands for mating and laying eggs.  The Blandings Turtle also spends portions of the summer and fall feeding in upland areas.  It eats a diet of crayfish, snails, worms, frogs, fish, and aquatic and terrestrial plants.
Blanding's Turtle

The Blanding's Turtle is one of the easiest Mid-Michigan to identify. It has several distinguishing characteristics.
  • A high-domed upper shell (carapace)
  • A hinged lower shell (plastron)
  • An overall dark green to black color with tan or yellowish spots on its carapace
  • A bright yellow chin and throat - This is its most identifiable characteristics.
Identifying marks - Note the high domed carapace, light spots on carapace, and yellow chin.

The Blanding's turtle is named for William Blanding (1773-1857) a doctor and naturalist from Philadelphia.  Dr. Blanding was the first person to describe the species for science.

Close-up showing yellow chin and throat

The Blanding's Turtle has a range that centers on the Great Lakes.  It's primary range is a far west as Nebraska and as far east as the St Lawrence River Valley in New York.  In the north it ranges into Michigan's Upper Peninsula, northern Wisconsin and Minnesota, and the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.  In the south its range extends into central Illinois.  There are small populations in southern New York, New England, and Nova Scotia.

Basic Information:

   Blanding's Turtle
Emydoidea blandingii or Emys blandingii 

Habitat:  ponds, lakes, wetlands, slow rivers, uplands near water

Size:  5 to 11 inches

Diet: crayfish, snails, insects, frogs, worms, fish, plants


  1. Hi, I have been a turtle fan and turtle (and tortoise keeper) since I was a little girl. I am interested in keeping and breeding spotted, blanding, and wood turtles to release well started juveniles into the wild. I realize I would need permits to keep at least the spotteds. Is there anyone that you know of that does this that I could network with? I can't seem to find any information but I know I can't be the only one worried abput ichigans turtles. Thanks. I know this is an old post. :) Sherry.

    1. Sherry, God Bless You. In the sixties, I used to collect a LOT of turtles. Grouchy Dear George was my "mentor". I have never seen spotteds in the wild, and I have been IN the wild. I found only one Blandings, a very solitary turtle, I believe. Please read my entry. Bill

  2. I used to collect a LOT of turtles in MI. There is a lake on the now-sold Howell Boy Scout ranch, where, if you dip a net through the seaweed on the edge, you would ALWAYS come up with one, sometimes three musk turtles. The Rifle river used to have LOTS of Northern wood turtles. I am not proud of the dent I made, but I hope this helps you. To breeding programs only these turtles should go. And, I have collected all over MI and other places, and never saw spotteds. Blandings is solitary and needs protection. I am a witness. A few of my Woods got to a breeder. Hopefully, Bill. George Campbell was my mentor. Grouchy Dear George

  3. Hi I'm joseph I love this turtle I am doing a report on it

  4. I just found one of these wandering through my yard and took her (I'm assuming) back down by the river flats at the end of my block. Saw another likley painted turtle laying her eggs as I was leaving, too!