The Blanding's turtle is a medium-sized, semi-aquatic freshwater turtle that inhabits wetlands in parts of the upper Midwest, New York, New England, and southern Canada, including Nova Scotia.
Blanding's turtles have life history characteristics that are comparable to sea turtles and tortoises. They can live to 70 years of age, tend to reach sexual maturity at more than 20 years of age, and have low reproductive potential. Adults often must reproduce for their entire lives for just one or two of their hatchlings to survive to adulthood as well, and replace them in the population. As a result, populations of Blanding's turtles are extremely sensitive to the loss of adults, whether from mortality or illegal collection. Throughout the Northeast, populations appear to be declining.
Compared to other aquatic turtles, the Blanding's turtle is known to travel long distances, often more than a mile over land in search of suitable vernal pool habitats for breeding and feeding. Because of their movement patterns, Blanding's turtles require larger landscapes than many other turtle species, and they are vulnerable to habitat fragmentation and degradation. In the Northeast, moving across the landscape means these turtles are forced to cross roads, where they risk deadly encounters with cars.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with partners on efforts to support conservation of the Blanding's turtle, including by giving hatchlings a "head start." As part of their coursework, students at Bristol County Agricultural High School in Massachusetts raise hatchling Blanding's turtles in captivity until they are large enough to survive predation, and then release them back into the wild onlands.
In 2023, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be reviewing the status of the Blanding's turtle to determine if it warrants Endangered Species Act listing.
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