Species Profile

Blanding's Turtle Nova Scotia population

Scientific Name: Emydoidea blandingii
Other/Previous Names: Emydoidea blandingi
Taxonomy Group: Reptiles
COSEWIC Range: Nova Scotia
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: November 2016
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: B1ab(ii,iii,iv,v)+2ab(ii,iii,iv,v); C2a(i)
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: The current population size is < 500 mature individuals. The three main subpopulations are genetically distinct from each other and from other populations in Québec, Ontario, and the United States. Although the largest subpopulation occurs in a protected area, its numbers are still declining, possibly still showing the effects of historical mortality that took place 30-60 years ago. The other subpopulations are susceptible to increasing habitat degradation from forestry activities, recreation, water-level manipulation, and cottage development. Two subpopulations are very small (< 5 adults) and may not be viable. Threats across the range include increased pressure from predators, mortality from on- and off-road vehicles, vulnerability to collection, potential impacts of exotic predatory fishes, and the effects of climate change.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Threatened in April 1993. Status re-examined and designated Endangered in May 2005 and November 2016.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2006-08-15

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents

Blanding's Turtle Photo 2

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Description

The Blanding’s Turtle, Emydoidea blandingii, is the only representative of the genus Emydoidea. It is a medium-sized freshwater turtle with a characteristic bright yellow throat and a highly domed black shell with yellowish spots and flecks. It has one of the smallest global ranges compared to most other North American turtles and only ~20% of its global range occurs in Canada. [Updated 22/01/2018]

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Distribution and Population

In its Canadian range, the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence population of the Blanding’s Turtle occurs primarily in southern Ontario (with isolated reports as far north as Timmins) and southern Québec (with isolated reports occurring as far north as the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region and as far east as the Capitale-Nationale region in Québec). The much smaller Nova Scotia population occurs in the southern portion of the province and represents the most isolated population within the species’ range. In the United States, the Blanding’s Turtle occurs in the northeastern states, and is mainly concentrated around the Great Lakes; however, it occurs as far west as Nebraska and South Dakota and there are small isolated populations along the Atlantic seaboard in New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. Across the North American range, Blanding’s Turtles mainly occur in small, isolated subpopulations that maintain a few dozen to approximately 100 turtles. In Canada, most monitored subpopulations appear to maintain fewer than 150 adults, with none exceeding 1000. The size of the Blanding’s Turtle Great Lakes/St. Lawrence population is impossible to estimate accurately, given that very few mark-recapture studies have been conducted throughout the region, but is believed to harbour 60% of the population was lost due to large-scale wetland drainage after European arrival, and a further decline of > 50% is projected over the next three generations based on observed trends for monitored subpopulations and road mortality models. The long-term mark-recapture program in Québec has found fewer than 200 adults to date; although no trends have been confirmed for this subpopulation, it has likely also declined due to historical wetland loss and ongoing anthropogenic threats. [Updated 22/01/2018]

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Habitat

In Nova Scotia, Blanding’s Turtles tend to prefer darkly-coloured water, indicative of relatively higher secondary productivity. In the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence population, however, Blanding’s Turtles are often observed using clear water eutrophic wetlands. Blanding’s Turtles have strong site fidelity but may use several connected water bodies throughout the active season. Turtles of all ages occur primarily in shallow water habitats. Females nest in a variety of substrates including sand, organic soil, gravel, cobblestone, and soil-filled crevices of rock outcrops. Adults and juveniles overwinter in a variety of water bodies that maintain pools averaging about 1 m in depth; however, hatchling turtles have been observed hibernating terrestrially during their first winter. Reported mean home ranges generally fall between 10-60 ha (maximum 382 ha) or 1000-2500 m (maximum 7000 m); however, most studies likely underestimate Blanding’s Turtle home range size because few have utilized GPS loggers to track daily movements throughout one or more entire active seasons.[Updated 22/01/2018]

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Biology

The Blanding’s Turtle is an exceptionally long-lived and late-maturing species, even for a turtle. Blanding’s Turtles mature between 14-25 years of age and can continue to reproduce successfully until at least 75 years old. Mature females produce one clutch of eggs every 1-3 years and female fecundity and reproductive frequency are positively correlated with age. Females carry out long-distance nesting migrations and can make overland movements of >10 km. The Blanding’s Turtle’s ability to make long-distance movements facilitates gene flow among wetlands and may substantially increase reproductive success. The mean generation time for Canadian Blanding’s Turtles is ~40 years. [Updated 22/01/2018]

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Threats

This species faces numerous threats, the most serious of which include: (i) road/rail mortality and associated road effects; (ii) habitat loss due to the invasive European Reed, various types of development and wetland modifications; (iii) illegal collection for the pet, food and traditional medicine trades; and (iv) increased mortality of individuals and nests from subsidized predators. Additional potential threats include: mortality from aggregate, forestry, energy production and recreational activities; wetland pollution; climate change and the introduction of other invasive species. The most serious threats to Blanding’s Turtle subpopulations are those that result in the mortality or loss of adults. The main limiting factors for this species are its slow life-history (extreme longevity, very late age of maturity, low annual reproductive output, low juvenile recruitment, and a dependency on high annual adult survival) and short, cool summers at the northern periphery of the range, which reduce turtle reproductive frequency and nest success. These limiting factors make the Blanding’s Turtle highly vulnerable to even small increases (

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Blanding's Turtle, Nova Scotia population, is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Blanding's Turtle (Nova Scotia population) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry

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Recovery Progress and Activities

Summary of Progress to date In Nova Scotia, Blanding’s Turtles are restricted to the south-western interior of the province where there are at least three small genetically distinct populations. In 2005, COSEWIC up-listed the Nova Scotia population of the Blanding's turtle from threatened to endangered, based partly on a population viability analysis that indicated at least one of these populations was declining. In 2000, Blanding's Turtles were declared endangered under the Nova Scotia Endangered Species Act. These decisions were based, in part, on the species’ limited distribution within the province, the population’s uneven age structure, and the low rate of recruitment into the breeding population. The Blanding’s Turtle Recovery Team has been in place since 1993 and there is a well-established research and stewardship program underway to protect turtles and their habitats, locate additional populations, and ascertain the true status and threats to the population. The goal of the Blanding’s Turtle recovery plan is to maintain and restore, where appropriate, the population size and structure through the maintenance and restoration of habitat and ecological processes. High adult survivorship is critical in this long-lived (70+ years) species. Summary of Research/Monitoring Activities Researchers have been individually marking Blanding’s Turtles in Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site (KNPNHS) since 1969 and monitoring their nesting activity annually since 1992. Research on populations outside the Park began in 1996 and has increased in recent years. The primarily student-driven research team has investigated various aspects of the turtle’s biology including population genetic structure, overall range in Nova Scotia, nesting behaviour and nest success, hatchling movements, over-wintering ecology, juvenile growth, habitat characteristics, age-relate survivorship, and population trends. Researchers have been conducting studies on genetic variation throughout the North American range since 1995. Research has shown that the Nova Scotia population has significantly diverged genetically from populations in the main range and harbours a significant portion of the total genetic biodiversity of the species. Within Nova Scotia, the three known populations are genetically distinguishable suggesting that there is very little movement of turtles between them. Differences in behaviour, habitat use, growth rates, adult size, and clutch size also have been recorded among them. Summary of Recovery Activities Of the three known populations of Blanding’s Turtle in Nova Scotia, one occurs in a National Park, one primarily in a combined provincially and privately protected area, and one in a working landscape dominated by small private landholdings. This diversity presents an array of conservation and management opportunities. Recovery activities in working landscapes have incorporated research and public education and outreach, allowing science and stewardship to converge. Recovery activities to date have involved collaborations with government, industry, local organizations, and community members. A volunteer-based nest protection program was established in KNPNHS in the 1990’s and has since expanded to the two known populations outside the Park. Each night during nesting season, volunteers and researchers monitor known nesting sites and observe females as they go through the nesting process. Once a turtle nest is complete, a wire-mesh cage is placed over the nest to protect it from predators. In recent years, over 1000 hours of volunteer effort each year has helped protect more than 30 nests annually. This program is continuing to expand to provide local community members, and other volunteers, opportunities to be directly involved with many aspects of recovery. Since 2002, researchers have been captivity rearing hatchlings in an area where we know the population has declined over the past 40 years in an attempt to boost the population size. Hatchlings are raised in captivity for the first 1 or 2 years of life and then released back into the population when they have reached a large enough size to reduce their risk of predation. Because Blanding’s Turtles are slow to mature (20+ years), there is a long lag between the time researchers initiate recovery actions, such as protecting nests or rearing hatchlings, and the time new adults begin to appear in the breeding population as a result of these actions. URLs Nova Scotia’s Blanding’s Turtles Conservation and Recovery:http://www.speciesatrisk.ca/blandings/

Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

15 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the Blanding's Turtle Emydoidea blandingii in Canada (2017-10-24)

    The Blanding's Turtle, Emydoidea blandingii, is a medium-sized freshwater turtle largely confined to the Great Lakes Basin. In addition to lakes, it inhabits both permanent and temporary ponds, streams, and wetlands. Blanding's Turtle is the only representative of the genus Emydoidea in the family Emydidae. The upper shell (carapace) is domed and smooth and may be up to 27.4 cm in length. The carapace is characterized by a grayish-black colour with tan to yellow spots or flecks scattered at random. The markings tend to get smaller and may fade altogether as the turtle ages. The lower shell (plastron) is a rich yellow and each scute (section) has a black blotch in the outer posterior corner. The plastron is hinged so that some individuals can completely close their shell. Males have a concave plastron, to facilitate copulation, whereas the female's plastron is flat. Adults of both sexes have a bright yellow lower jaw and throat, and this is the species' most characteristic feature.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Blanding's Turtle, Nova Scotia population (2018-01-18)

    The current population size is < 500 mature individuals. The three main subpopulations are genetically distinct from each other and from other populations in Québec, Ontario, and the United States. Although the largest subpopulation occurs in a protected area, its numbers are still declining, possibly still showing the effects of historical mortality that took place 30-60 years ago. The other subpopulations are susceptible to increasing habitat degradation from forestry activities, recreation, water-level manipulation, and cottage development. Two subpopulations are very small (< 5 adults) and may not be viable. Threats across the range include increased pressure from predators, mortality from on- and off-road vehicles, vulnerability to collection, potential impacts of exotic predatory fishes, and the effects of climate change.
  • Response Statements - Blanding's Turtle (2005-11-15)

    The three small subpopulations of this species found in central southwest Nova Scotia total fewer than 250 mature individuals. These three subpopulations are genetically distinct from each other and from other Blanding’s Turtles in Quebec, Ontario and the United States. Although the largest subpopulation occurs in a protected area, its numbers are still declining. The other subpopulations are also susceptible to increasing habitat degradation, mortality of adults and predation on eggs and hatchlings.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Blanding's Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii), Nova Scotia Population, in Canada (2012-02-08)

    Blanding's turtles (Emydoidea blandingii) are typically found in shallow wetlands with abundant vegetation. During their life, they use a variety of habitats and may travel considerable distances from water, particularly for nesting. They take about 20 years to mature and can live for over 80 years. The Nova Scotia population is isolated from the species' main range and their distribution in the province appears to be limited to the southwest interior. To date, three main populations have been identified as well as two smaller concentrations. These main populations exhibit significant differences in behaviour, morphology, habitat use and fecundity. Viability analysis suggests that at least two of the populations may be at significant risk of extinction. The isolation, restricted distribution, small population size and projected decline and have resulted in the listing of the Nova Scotia population as Endangered under both the federal Species At Risk Act (S.C. 2002, c.29) and the Nova Scotia Endangered Species Act (S.N.S. 1998, c.11). Updated critical habitat for the Blanding’s Turtle, Nova Scotia population, is identified to the extent possible in the species’ action plan (2020)

Action Plans

  • Action Plan for the Blanding’s Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii), Nova Scotia Population, in Canada (2020-12-09)

    The Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency is the competent minister under SARA for the Blanding’s Turtle, Nova Scotia population, and has prepared this action plan to implement the recovery strategy, as per section 47 of SARA. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, the Blanding’s Turtle Recovery Team, Indigenous groups, and environmental non-government organizations, as per section 48(1) of SARA.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site of Canada (2017-02-07)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site of Canada applies to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site (KNP and NHS), including Kejimkujik National Park Seaside. The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species at Risk Act (SARA (s.47)) for species requiring an action plan and that regularly occur within these sites. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur at KNP and NHS.

Orders

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2005 (2005-08-12)

    2005 Annual Report to the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
  • COSEWIC Annual Report 2016 to 2017 (2017-10-24)

    Over the past year COSEWIC re-examined the status of 40 wildlife species; of these, the majority (78 %) were reassessed at the same or lower level of risk. Of a total of 73 species assessed 11 were assigned the status of Not at Risk (8 re-assessments and 3 new assessments). To date and with the submission of this report, COSEWIC’s assessments now include 735 wildlife species in various risk categories including 321 Endangered, 172 Threatened, 219 Special Concern and 23 Extirpated (i.e. - no longer found in the wild in Canada). In addition 16 species have been assessed as Extinct, 58 have been designated as Data Deficient and 186 were assessed and assigned Not at Risk status.

Permits and Related Agreements

  • Explanation for issuing permit(#KNP-2018-30297), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2018-10-01)

    The Blanding's turtle is a long-lived species that has a number of established of monitoring and recovery programs in Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site (Kejimkujik), including nest monitoring, trapping, visual surveys, radio tracking, hatchling emergence and overwintering site surveys. These activities contribute towards measures outlined in the Recovery Strategy for Blanding's Turtle (NS population) and the Multi-species Action Plan for Kejimkujik that works toward survivorship and recovery, threat mitigation, determination of success/outcomes from previous recovery actions (such as the headstarting project) and obtainment of population level information to determine population viability and next steps for this species.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species Under the Species At Risk Act: November 2005 (2005-11-16)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list.
  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species January 2018 (2018-01-26)

    The Government of Canada is committed to preventing the disappearance of wildlife species at risk from our lands. As part of its strategy for realizing that commitment, on June 5, 2003, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species provided for under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened species on Schedule 1 benefit from the protection afforded by the prohibitions and from recovery planning requirements under SARA. Special Concern species benefit from its management planning requirements. Schedule 1 has grown from the original 233 to 555 wildlife species at risk. In 2017, final listing decisions were made for 44 terrestrial species and 15 aquatic species. Of these 59 species, 35 were new additions, sixteen were reclassifications, three had a change made to how they are defined, two were removed from Schedule 1, one was referred back to COSEWIC for further evaluation and two were the object of ‘do not list’ decisions. In 2017, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, the Governor in Council approved listing proposals for 45 wildlife species. It is proposed that 21 species be added to Schedule 1, 11 be reclassified, 12 would have a change made to how they are defined, and one would be referred back to COSEWIC for further evaluation. The listing proposals were published in Canada Gazette, part I for a 30-day public comment period and final listing decisions for all 45 species are expected by August of 2018. Please submit your comments by May 22, 2018, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultations and by October 22, 2018, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations. For a description of the consultation paths these species will undergo, please visit the Species at Risk Public Registry (SAR) website.

Critical Habitat Descriptions in the Canada Gazette

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