Nova Scotia’s Endangered Blanding’s Turtle:
A Natural Treasure in Kejimkujik
The majestic blanding’s turtle (Emys blandingii or Emydoidea blandingii) of Nova Scotia may be unfamiliar to those living outside of Queens and Annapolis counties, where a disjunct population is protected under the Endagnered Species Act. Unfortunately, the population in (and around) Kejimkujik National Park (hereinafter referred to as “Keji” to sound more like a local) is declining. However, concentrated efforts made by dedicated volunteers have helped protect nesting sites, and have successfully reared hatchlings in head-start programs. Continued conservation efforts will hopefully re-establish a self-sustaining population in Keji for this species. Massachusetts has made similar efforts to protect their endangered red-bellied cooter of Plymouth County (click here to read about our experiences with head-starting this species). Head-start programs also exist in Massachusetts for the blanding’s turtle.
Keji is a perfect excuse for an attempt to spot this timid turtle. The park has campsites that are only accessible by canoe or hiking; this is perfect for those who seek solitude from the normal stressors of city life. The longest (56 km) hiking trail, Liberty Lake trail, is perfect for an overnight backpacking trip, and provides ample opportunities to seek out a natural treasure, the blanding’s turtle.
Look for a turtle that somewhat resembles an eastern box turtle and approximately 5” to 10.5” in length. The blanding’s turtle’s yellow throat/chin is the dead giveaway. It has a smooth, dome-shaped carapace with ample yellow (irregular) markings. Like the box turtle, the blanding’s turtle has a hinged plastron, and will retreat into its shell when frightened. However, it cannot close its shell as tightly as the box turtle. They also have very long necks (as seen in photo) with a flat head and bulging eyes. Males can be differentiated by their concave plastron (like that of the spotted turtle).