The Endangered Blanding’s Turtle
(Emydoidea blandingii)

Photo: J. McKinnon

Description: Blanding’s turtles are medium-sized, long-lived (80+ years), freshwater turtles, which are slightly smaller than a bike helmet when full grown.  They have a high-domed, dark gray shell with yellow flecks, and a long, bright yellow throat. Up close, the Blanding’s turtle is easily distinguishable from the colourful  painted turtle, large snapping turtle, and sculptured wood turtle.

Range: Blanding's turtles in Nova Scotia exist in three small populations on the Mersey and Medway watersheds in the southwestern part of the province. They have specific habitat sites for nesting, summering, and overwintering.

Habitat: Blanding’s turtles summer in vegetated parts of lakes, rivers and wetlands. Females nest on cobble beaches, roadsides, old woods roads, gravel pits and even in gardens! These turtles overwinter in small spring-fed floodplain pools and in deep brooks.

Threats: Major threats to this turtle include: habitat loss and fragmentation from human development, road mortality and predation of eggs and young turtles by raccoons, small mammals, and large birds.

Additional Information: The Nova Scotia population complex, estimated at about 300 adults, has been listed as Endangered both provincially and nationally. These turtle mature between 20 and 25 years of age, the latest in North America. Their diet consists of aquatic plants, small fish and insects. For more information about the Blanding's turtle, click here.

Get Involved!

Nest Monitoring

Photo: J. McKinnon Photo: D. Smith

What is it?
During nesting season (early-June to early-July) each year, known Blanding’s turtle nesting sites are monitored on a nightly basis.  Trained volunteers and researchers survey each site, and record a variety of data on turtle behaviour.  Successfully laid nests are covered with a wire mesh cage to protect them from predators.  In September and October, nests are monitored daily for emerging hatchlings.  Hatchlings are marked, measured, weighed, some are outfitted with a small radio, and released at the nest site. 

Why are we doing it?
One of the concerns for this long-lived, late maturing species is the lack of young adults in the population, which can be due to high rates of nest predation by raccoons.  This program aims to protect Blanding's turtle nests to increase the number of young turtles in the three known populations in Nova Scotia.  It also allows researchers to collect long-term data on female survivorship, clutch size, hatching success and site fidelity. 

Making a difference
The nest protection program is volunteer-driven in Kejimkujik and largely community-based outside the park, especially at Pleasant River.  In 2006, 59 volunteers and researchers contributed almost 1500 hours in Kejimkujik and located and protected 19 Blanding's turtle nests in the park.  In local communities, ten families protected 16 nests on or near their property.  During the fall, volunteers assisted researchers in Kejimkujik and Pleasant River to monitor nests for emerging hatchlings and radio track hatchlings.  In Kejimkujik a total of 74 hatchlings emerged, along with 32 in Pleasant River, and 10 at McGowan Lake.

Don’t miss next year!
The Blanding’s turtle nest monitoring programs occur every year in the three known populations at Kejimkujik, McGowan Lake and Pleasant River. Volunteers are always needed from early-June to early July, and from mid-September to late-October. Contact us to get involved!

 

Radio Tracking

Photo: J. McKinnon Photo: D. Smith

What is it?
Throughout the year, Blanding’s turtles are radio-tracked in southwest Nova Scotia.  Certain turtles are outfitted with radio-transmitters that emit a frequency that can be detected by a radio-receiver. Researchers and volunteers locate these individuals on a regular basis by following the signal with a directional antenna.

Why are we doing it?
Radio-telemetry provides a better understanding of movement patterns, behaviour and seasonal habitat use. Researchers can find, study and protect summering, nesting, and over-wintering sites by following individuals throughout the year.

Making a difference
Volunteers in Kejimkujik and southwestern Nova Scotia have been radio-tracking turtles, especially during nesting and emergence. Their efforts in the past few years have allowed the collection of critical data on overwintering sites and hatchling survivorship.

Don’t miss it this year!
Blanding’s turtle radio-telemetry occurs throughout the year.  There will be an increased number of radio-tagged turtles in late summer and fall of next year, as more headstart turtles are released. Contact us to get involved!

 

Population Surveys

Photo: J. McKinnon Photo: D. Smith

What is it?
From late-spring to early fall, volunteers and researchers search for Blanding’s turtles using visual and live-trapping surveys. With visual surveys, individuals canoe lakes, rivers and wetlands looking for turtles. For live-trapping surveys, individuals set and check aquatic hoop-net traps that are baited with sardines. These traps give a good indication of the number of Blanding’s and what other species are in the area.

Why are we doing it?
Visual and live-trapping surveys allow us to better understand distribution and population size of Blanding’s turtle in Nova Scotia. Surveys can lead to locating new summering sites in unsearched wetlands, and locating new individuals.

Making a difference
Volunteers in Kejimkujik helped researchers conduct weekly visual surveys on the Mersey River and with live-trapping surveys in various locations in summer 2006. Outside the park, several volunteers have assisted researchers with trapping new areas, and a few are now conducting trap sessions on their own! 

Don’t miss it this year!
Blanding’s turtle visual and live-trapping surveys occur at various times from late-spring to early-fall every year. Contact us to get involved!

 

 

 

Kejimkujik Area Stewardship Programs


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