General Description: The Blanding’s Turtle is a medium-sized turtle with a large, domed carapace. Adults have carapace lengths ranging from 5–9 inches (12.7–22.9 cm) in length. The carapace is typically dark and is covered in small flecks of yellow. The top of the head is similar in patterning to the carapace and the lower jaw and throat is solid yellow. The plastron is light yellow to tan in coloration with several dark blotches on each of scutes, with a single hinge just posterior to the fore-limbs. It can easily be distinguished from other South Dakota turtles by the presence of a yellow throat and lower jaw.
Behavior: Blanding’s Turtles are omnivores, often feeding on fish, frogs, carrion, invertebrates, and plant material. Though large, these turtles are agile swimmers and are capable of chasing down prey in the water. Individuals overwinter in mud and organic material at the bottom aquatic habitats.
Reproduction: Most breeding activity takes place in early spring and females lay eggs from May to June. Clutch sizes range from 5–12 eggs (8 average) and are laid in sandy upland substrates. Sexual maturity may take 14–20 years, with males often reaching maturity at faster rates than females.
Habitat: Blanding’s Turtles can be found in wetlands or other permanent bodies of water with high amounts of vegetation and often sandy substrates.
Species Range: Blanding’s Turtles are primarily distributed across the Great Lakes regions, extending from the Sandhills of western Nebraska, east through Iowa and Minnesota to northern New York. Few, isolated populations exist surround this region.
South Dakota Range: This species is likely the rarest turtle in South Dakota and may be extirpated from the state. It is likely that few, isolated peripheral populations of this species were present in the southeastern corner of the state, but no documentation of this species has been reported in the recent decades. The only known vouchers of this species are from the Big Sioux River near Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
South Dakota Status: This species is listed on the South Dakota Natural Heritage Program. Any sightings of this species should be reported to South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (report observation).
Account written by Drew R. Davis and Abraham J. Kanz