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Contact information
For information on Wisconsin's rare vertebrate animals, contact:
Rich Staffen
Conservation Biologist
For information on Wisconsin's rare invertebrates, contact:
Jay Watson
Conservation Biologist

Blanding's Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii)



Blanding's Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) is a Special Concern species in Wisconsin. They utilize a wide variety of aquatic habitats including deep and shallow marshes, shallow bays of lakes and impoundments where areas of dense emergent and submergent vegetation exists, sluggish streams, oxbows and other backwaters of rivers, drainage ditches (usually where wetlands have been drained), and sedge meadows and wet meadows adjacent to these habitats. This species is semi-terrestrial and individuals may spend quite a bit of time on land. They often move between a variety of wetland habitats during the active season, which can extend from early March to mid-November. They overwinter in standing water that is typically more than 3 feet deep and with a deep organic substrate but will also use both warm and cold-water streams and rivers where they can avoid freezing. Blanding's turtles generally breed in spring, late summer or fall. Nesting occurs from about mid-May through early July depending on spring temperatures. They strongly prefer to nest in sandy soils and may travel up to 300m (984 ft) from a wetland or waterbody to find suitable nesting sites. This species appears to display nest site fidelity, returning to its natal site and then nesting in a similar location annually. Hatching occurs from early August through mid-October. This species takes 17 to 20 years or more to reach maturity. See the species guidance document for avoidance measures and management guidance from the Natural Heritage Conservation Program.

State status

Note: The Blanding's turtle was removed from Wisconsin's Threatened list on January 1, 2014. While the Blanding's turtle no longer meets the scientific criteria for listing as Threatened, the population is vulnerable to harvest and collection. To address this, the Blanding's turtle is now listed as a Protected Wild Animal under NR 10.02 [exit DNR] and has a bag limit of zero with no open season under NR 16.12 [exit DNR], NR 19.275 [exit DNR], NR 21.13 [exit DNR] and NR 22.13 [exit DNR]. Learn more about Wisconsin's endangered and threatened species list.

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - both state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Blanding's Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where occurrences of this species meet NHI data standards and is not meant as a comprehensive map of all observations.

Note: Species recently added to the NHI Working List may temporarily have blank occurrence maps.

Documented locations of Emydoidea blandingii in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.
Summary Information
State StatusSC/P
Federal Status in WisconsinSOC
State RankS3S4
Global RankG4
Tracked by NHIY

Species guidance

This document contains identification and life history information for Blanding's Turtle. It also describes how to screen projects for potential impacts to this species, lists avoidance measures, and provides general management guidance.

Blanding's Turtle Species Guidance [PDF]




Blanding's Turtle

Photo © Brian Collins.

Blanding's Turtle

Photo by Armund Bartz, WDNR.

Blanding's Turtle

Blanding's Turtle hatching

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Blanding's Turtle

The Blanding's turtle inhabitats a variety of open wetland communities and adjoining uplands, including barrens and oak openings.

Photo by Gregor Schuurman, WDNR.

Blanding's Turtle

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Wildlife Action Plan

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

Natural community (habitat) associations

The table below lists the natural communities that are associated with Blanding's Turtle. Only natural communities for which Blanding's Turtle is "high" (score=3) or "moderate" (score=2) associated are shown. See the key to association scores for complete definitions. Please see the Wildlife Action Plan to learn how this information was developed.

Ecological landscape associations

The table below lists the ecological landscape association scores for Blanding's Turtle. The scores correspond to the map (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None). For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

This map shows the probability of Blanding's Turtle occurring in each of Wisconsin's Ecological Landscapes.  Actual scores can be found in the table to the left.

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Landscape-Community combinations of highest ecological priority*

Ecological priorities are the combinations of natural communities and ecological landscapes that provide Wisconsin's best opportunities to conserve important habitats for a given Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The 10 highest scoring combinations are considered ecological priorities and are listed below. More than 10 combinations are listed if multiple combinations tied for 10th place. For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

* Ecological priority score is a relative measure that is not meant for comparison between species. This score does not consider socio-economical factors that may dictate protection and/or management priorities differently than those determined solely by ecological analysis. Further, a low ecological priority score does not imply that management or preservation should not occur on a site if there are important reasons for doing so locally.

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Issues/threats and conservation actions

Conservation actions respond to issues or threats, which adversely affect species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) or their habitats. Besides actions such as restoring wetlands or planting resilient tree species in northern communities, research, surveys and monitoring are also among conservation actions described in the WWAP because lack of information can threaten our ability to successfully preserve and care for natural resources.

Threats/issues and conservations actions for rare animals

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Last revised: Thursday, December 22, 2022