The Blanding’s turtle inhabits a variety of wetlands including marshes, swamps, and flood plains. However, individual turtles will travel over land considerable distances to reach sandy or gravelly areas to lay eggs, and vernal pools where they will feast on amphibian egg masses, larval amphibians, crustaceans, plants, and other organisms throughout the spring.
Blanding’s turtles are easy to identify by their bright yellow throat that is often exposed as these large turtles hold their heads high while basking on logs and hummocks.
The Blanding’s turtle’s beak is curved upwards at the corners of the mouth, creating a sense that the turtle is smiling at you. This “smiley” turtle is listed as Threatened in New York State. It’s likely that fewer than 3,000 individuals of this gentle turtle species remain in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, New York, and Pennsylvania combined.
With so few left, losses to the illegal pet trade and introduced diseases make their situation even more precarious. Blanding’s turtles are most threatened by habitat loss and degradation and are easily harmed or killed by vehicles on roads during their overland movements.
To help New York conserve this species, you can watch out for turtles on roads, especially during their nesting season from late May to July and avoid haying and mowing fields during this time. If you are lucky enough to see one, leave it in the wild, take a photo, and report the observation to your regional DEC wildlife office.
Photo of Blanding’s turtle by M.T. Jones.