Pictured above: Note the bright yellow chin and highly domed carapace. Also note the plastron coloration (top right).
Description: Blanding's Turtles are medium-sized turtles, attaining adult carapace lengths of 5 to 10 inches. They are unlike any other aquatic turtle within Wisconsin in that their carapace is highly domed and black with yellow flecks. Likewise, the body is also black with yellow flecks, while the underside of the neck and chin is bright yellow. It is interesting to note that Vogt (1981) reports this bright yellow chin does not appear until the turtle's third year. The plastron is yellow with black blotches on each scute (pictured above). Also, unlike any other aquatic turtle in Wisconsin, their plastrons are hinged, allowing the turtle to pull the bottom of its’ shell upward. Blanding's Turtles are members of the family Emydidae, as are other aquatic turtles such as Painted and Map Turtles.
Habitat/Ecology: Unlike other aquatic turtles in the state, these are more of a wetland species and they tend to prefer shallow, slow moving back-waters or marshes with muddy bottoms and much vegetation, rather than rivers or lakes. Blanding's Turtles will eat crayfish, frogs, fish, earthworms, and snails but will also eat succulent vegetation and berries. Unlike all other aquatic turtles in our area, the Blanding’s Turtle can eat out of water. They are occasionally found basking on muddy banks and submerged logs.
Vogt (1981) reports that mating occurs in April. The nest building season for these turtles is approximately June and July, when up to 15 elliptical eggs will be laid. Hatchlings will emerge in late August and September. It is said that females will travel to the nest-building site in the evening, deposit her eggs, and then hide nearby until the following evening before risking the trip back to the water.
These turtles are said to be very cold-tolerant and there have been reports of fisherman witnessing them slowly moving about under the ice during winter. Indeed, I have seen them on very chilly spring days, sitting along muddy banks, well before any other turtle has emerged.
Remarks: This turtle is very shy and placid. If captured, it will probably pull into its’ shell and urinate. They are slow moving on land and generally not well equipped to make a hasty getaway. I have witnessed them on several occasions, during two consecutive years (2000 and 2001), in the Myrick Park marsh. These are a "Threatened" species in Wisconsin and their presence in a wetland located in the middle of town is a wonderful surprise. Scientific research should be performed on this population to determine its' stability.
Because it is a "Threatened" species in Wisconsin, the Blanding's Turtle cannot be removed or harmed in any way without a stiff fine.