Blanding's Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii)
A medium-sized hard shell turtle with an elongated smooth black carapace (top shell) covered by irregularly shaped tan or yellow spots. The throat and neck are bright yellow. Males reach 28cm (about 11 in.) carapace length while females reach 22cm (about 8 1/2 in).
Blanding’s turtle uses a variety of wetland habitats, with a preference for shallow, clear, standing water with abundant aquatic vegetation, but it can be found in almost any water body in their area. This species also requires upland habitat, relying on open sandy areas covered in grasses or shrubs for nesting. Due to their high mobility, Blanding’s turtles occupy large areas. Blanding’s turtles often traverse inhabited or disturbed areas, including farm fields, gardens, under power lines, and the edges of dirt roads.
Blanding's turtles can be found in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Wisconsin and Canada (Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Québec).
Trade in Blanding’s turtles appears to be restricted to the pet trade; there does not appear to be trade in meat. The elimination of commercial collecting is considered an immediate conservation need for this species. In October 2012, an international hobbyist magazine featured Blanding’s turtle as one of the most “engaging and interesting” turtles for collectors to keep. Canada has legal and regulatory conservation requirements which prohibit the commercial export of this species. Under Canada’s endangered species legislation - which does not distinguish between specimens of captive born, bred in captivity or wild origin - the export of Blanding’s turtles is only permitted for purposes related to conservation.
U.S. exports of Blanding’s turtles increased from around 50 specimens per year in 1999 to about 200 per year by 2004. Though exports dropped to 1999 levels in the mid-2000s, they have begun increasing in recent years, again approaching 350 specimens per year by 2011. Trade in Blanding’s turtle follows an apparent cyclical nature of exports, peaking and rebounding about every five years. Overall, there appears to be an increasing trend in trade.
In addition to trade, Blanding’s turtle is impacted by habitat fragmentation and destruction caused by road building and land conversion. More importantly, proximity to human habitation exposes these turtles to higher road mortality and facilitates access to collectors. Adult nesting females are more vulnerable to collection. Mortality and collection are barriers to gene flow, which could jeopardize the species’ long-term survival by leading to inbreeding. Blanding’s turtles may experience increased predation of eggs, young, and possibly adults from subsidized predators (i.e., unnaturally large populations of predators near human population centers). Blanding’s turtles often get caught in baited traps intended for commercial trapping of snapping turtles. Once captured, a ready market exists to sell Blanding’s turtles, which is an incentive not to release the turtles back to the wild.
- Read the proposal submitted by the United States and China for consideration at CoP16.
- Learn how the Service is working on-the-ground to conserve Blanding's turtles.
- To learn about the unsustainable turtle trade and CITES' efforts to regulate it, read Shell-Shocked: Trade in Turtles Threatens Species , an article published in the Winter 2013 Issue of FWS News.
- To learn about how the United States is working to conserve native species, read Partnering to Conserve Native Species , also published in the Winter 2013 Issue of FWS News.
- To read the entire FWS News spotlight on CITES, visit our Articles page.