The Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) is a 7- to 9-inch turtle with yellow speckles that often run together to form streaks on the carapace. It is easily identified when basking from its characteristic yellow throat and chin. It uses a variety of shallow wetland habitats including marshes, swamps, bogs, ponds, and vernal pools. Females make long distance upland movements in search of suitable sandy or loamy, full-sun, nesting habitats where they are most vulnerable to mortality from vehicles when crossing roadways. Other threats associated with population declines include development in surrounding upland habitats, direct filling of wetlands, casual and commercial collection from the wild, and removal of beaver or human-made dams. It is listed as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in all six states in BCR 14.
Blanding’s turtles require large intact landscapes with a diversity of wetland types as well as areas with sandy openings for nesting. They are often associated with buttonbush swamps, highbush blueberry-winterberry shrub thickets, and deep marshes with emergent vegetation. Vernal pools important and are used as refuge during upland movements.
Habitat Management Practices
There is significant overlap in habitat use between Blanding’s turtles and spotted turtles (Clemmys guttata) and the following may be largely applied to either species.
In areas where Blanding’s turtles are known or predicted to be present, schedule forestry activities during their inactive season from November 1st to February 28th, crossing wetlands only when frozen solid. To avoid crushing adults during the active season, restrict equipment to 300 feet from vernal pools, potential vernal pools, scrub-shrub swamps, and emergent wetlands. Avoid areas between wetlands or vernal pools that are within 600 feet of each other. Minimize active-season wetland crossings to the extent possible, using temporary bridges as needed. Avoid disturbance to vernal pools year-round. Avoid introducing aquatic or terrestrial invasive plants from off-site fill.
To avoid mortality to nests, hatchlings, and juveniles, do not stage equipment or use motorized vehicles from May 15th to September 15th in potential nesting areas such as gravel pits or powerlines with stable, coarse sand or sand and gravel substrates. If activities cannot be avoided, secure the area perimeter with silt fence and conduct daily sweeps before each work day.
American woodcock (Scolopax minor) recommendations may be beneficial where timber harvests larger than natural disturbances offset a lack of early successional habitat, especially near existing patches of shrubland, wetland, or beaver flowages.
Avoid siting trails within core areas of high priority sites. Reroute ATV and OHRV trails away from nesting areas (e.g., gravel pits) and wetland movement corridors. Where such trails already exist, consider seasonal closures or delayed trail openings. Most trail and turtle conflicts occur in June, when turtles are seeking nesting sites.
Nesting creation, expansion, or enhancement
Identify potential new nesting areas within the interior of the site more than several hundred feet from roads and residences and within 600 feet of known or predicted high-use wetlands.
Carloni, J. 2015. American Woodcock. Pages A281-A287 in the New Hampshire Wildlife Action Plan, NH Fish & Game Department, Concord, NH.
Jenkins, R., and K.J. Babbitt. 2003. Developing a conservation strategy to protect land habitat functions for New Hampshire’s reptiles and amphibians using the Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) as a flagship species. Final report submitted to the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department.
Jones, M. and L. Willey. 2013. Conservation Plan for the Blanding’s Turtle and Associated Species of Conservation Need in the Northeastern United States. [Online] Northeast Blanding’s Turtle Working Group.
Northeast Blanding’s Turtle Working Group. 2015. Habitat Management Guidelines.
Valliere, L. and M. Marchand. 2015. Blanding’s Turtle. Pages A44-A61 in the New Hampshire Wildlife Action Plan, NH Fish & Game Department, Concord, NH.