Wild Profile: Meet the Blanding’s turtle

A female Blanding's turtle crawling out from the water By Ryan M. Bolton/Shutterstock

If you can spy a Blanding’s turtle, you’ll be able to identify it as such. This guy’s bright yellow, extra-long neck (and chin) distinguishes it from other northern turtles. And check out that shell. It looks like an army helmet. Most Ontario turtles have wider, flatter shells. Blanding’s turtles live a lot of life underwater. They stroll along the bottom of shallow, weedy, marshy areas; thanks to that long neck, they can poke their faces into spots other water-dwellers can’t reach. To get at crayfish and snails, a Blanding’s reaches underneath driftwood and between rocks. Gotcha!

When can you spot a Blanding’s turtle?

The best time to see one of these at-risk reptiles is May. For about a month, when the sun is shining and the air temperature is 15°C and up, they bask. Who wouldn’t? They’ll float at the water’s surface or suntan on logs as they try to boost their metabolism. If spooked, a Blanding’s will immediately plop into the water, where, with only the head poking out, one can look more like a venomous yellow-bellied sea snake. (Which is not found in Canada. Do. Not. Worry.)

When do they breed? 

Although Blanding’s turtles breed any time during summer—like other turtle species—romance is really in the air soon after hibernation. A male turtle will spend more than an hour wooing a potential lady friend. (That’s a long time in the turtle-verse.) He’ll caress her head with his chin, and nibble her neck. It’s true love! Except not really; most Blanding’s turtles are promiscuous, and usually more than one papa is responsible for fertilizing the eggs. Once pregnant, a mother heads onto land to lay her clutch, after digging a hole with her back legs. It takes an entire day—nearly until midnight. Before returning to the water, she might stop to forage for berries, leaves, and worms. She just built her nursery and gave birth. She’s owed.

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