University of Massachusetts Amherst

Massachusetts North American Amphibian Program

Blanding's Turtle

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Herp Atlas 1992-1998 Survey

  • The map below shows the distribution of the Blanding's Turtle in Massachusetts based on the original intensive volunteer survey that took place from 1992-1998.
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Updated Distribution Map

Emydoidea blandingii (6-9”)
MA Status: "Threatened." Illegal to harass, kill, collect or possess.

Blanding's Turtle

The Blanding’s Turtle is a mid-sized turtle ranging between 6-9 inches in shell length. Its high-domed carapace (top shell) is dark and covered with pale yellow flecking. The lower shell (plastron) is yellow with large black blotches on the outer posterior corner of each scute (scale). The plastron is hinged, allowing movement; however, the shell does not close tightly. In older individuals, the entire plastron may be black. The most distinguishing feature is its long, yellow throat and chin, which makes it recognizable at a distance. Males have slightly concave plastrons, females have flat plastrons. The tails of males are thicker and their cloacal opening (the common orifice of the digestive, reproductive and urinary systems) is located beyond the edge of the carapace. Hatchlings have a brown carapace and brown to black plastron, and range between 1.3 and 1.5 inches in length.

Blanding’s Turtles use a variety of wetland and terrestrial habitat types. They overwinter in organic substrate in the deepest parts of marshes, ponds, and occasionally, vernal pools. Some individuals overwinter under hummocks in red maple or highbush blueberry swamps. Upon emergence from overwintering, Blanding’s Turtles often leave permanent wetlands and move overland to vernal pools and scrub-shrub swamps, where they feed and mate. During the summer months females aestivate (dormancy or reduced activity during the summer) in upland forest or along forest/field edges.

Blanding’s Turtles are omnivores, eating both plants and animals. The animals Blanding’s Turtles are known to eat, either alive or as carrion, consist of Pulmonate snails, crayfish, earthworms, insects, golden shiners, brown bullheads, and other small vertebrates. Vernal pools are an important source of many of these prey items. The plants that Blanding’s Turtles have been known to eat include coontail, duckweed, bulrush, and sedge.

Courtship and mating takes place during the spring and early summer and typically occurs in water.
Females will remain in wetland or vernal pool habitat until they begin nesting. The majority of nesting occurs in June in open areas with well-drained loamy or sandy soils, such as: dirt roads, powerline right-of-ways, residential lawns, gravel pits and early successional fields. Females typically begin nesting during the daylight and continue the process until after dark.

Blanding’s Turtles display temperature-dependent sex determination; eggs incubated below a pivotal temperature that produce males, and higher temperatures produce females. Typical clutch size ranges from 10 to 12 eggs. Hatchlings emerge in the late August and September. The typical size of a hatchling is about 1.4 inches.

Adapted from the MA Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program’s Blanding’s Turtle fact sheet. 2007

 

 

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