Blanding's turtle is a medium-sized turtle with an oval, moderately high-domed upper shell and a long head and neck. The upper shell may be dark brown or black with many yellow spots or bars. The lower shell is brownish yellow with a large, dark-brown blotch on the outer portion of each scute, and the forward third is hinged and movable. Head and limbs are brown and yellow. The upper jaw may be covered with black pigment resembling a mustache. The chin and underside of neck are usually bright yellow.
Species of Conservation Concern
Emydidae (basking, marsh, and box turtles) in the order Testudines (turtles and tortoises)
Upper shell length: 5 to 7 inches.
Where To Find
Apparently only in the extreme northeastern corner of our state.
This semiaquatic turtle may spend much of its time in shallow water along the edge of marshes, walking about on land, or basking in the sun on logs. Preferred habitat includes natural marshes and river sloughs, but this species also may live in ponds and drainage ditches.
Blanding’s turtles eat crayfish and a variety of aquatic insects, snails, small fish, frogs, and aquatic plants.
Listed as Endangered in the state of Missouri; a Species of Conservation Concern. This species was first discovered in our state in 1965. The total range of this species is centered on the Great Lakes, but it is listed as endangered in most places it occurs, due to limited numbers, a reduction and fragmentation of natural habitats, and heavy losses from nest predators, road kills exacerbated by human development of rural areas, and a very long generation time (36–47 years).
In our state, this species is active from late March to early October. Courtship and mating occur in April and early June. Females move overland to select a nesting site with sandy, well-drained soil and good exposure to the sun. A clutch of 6–15 eggs is normally laid in June. Hatching occurs in September, with newly emerged young measuring 1¼ inches in shell length.
Although many people think of an animal’s value only in terms of its direct economic imprint on human affairs, the science of ecology shows that each component of the natural community plays a unique and important role. Valuing nature means valuing even the smallest plants and animals.
Blanding’s turtles help control populations of the relatively small animals they eat. But many predators, including raccoons and foxes, eat them, easily following the turtles’ relatively strong scent trails. The turtles have extra problems where raccoons tend to concentrate near human homes.
About Reptiles and Amphibians in Missouri
Missouri’s herptiles comprise 43 amphibians and 75 reptiles. Amphibians, including salamanders, toads, and frogs, are vertebrate animals that spend at least part of their life cycle in water. They usually have moist skin, lack scales or claws, and are ectothermal (cold-blooded), so they do not produce their own body heat the way birds and mammals do. Reptiles, including turtles, lizards, and snakes, are also vertebrates, and most are ectothermal, but unlike amphibians, reptiles have dry skin with scales, the ones with legs have claws, and they do not have to live part of their lives in water.