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A Blanding's turtle against a white background, its legs extended from its shell as it crawls about the photo stage.

Blanding's Turtle

Blanding’s turtles are unmistakable: They have sunny yellow chins and throats. The slightly upturned corners of their upper jaws give them a perennial smile. Shedd is helping give young Blanding’s turtles a head start toward survival.

A Blanding's turtle suns itself among the rocks in its habitat, craning its long neck out from its domed shell to look around.
A young Blanding's turtle, still with yellow dots on its black shell, peers up at the camera as it climbs out of the water in its mossy habitat.

Needed: Room to roam

Blanding’s turtles live life large: They are bigger turtles, with shells up to 11 inches long. Their range radiates from the Great Lakes into Canada, Nebraska and New England. These semiaquatic turtles need a lot of habitat, traveling overland among freshwater marshes, ponds and quiet streams. Females can roam 10 days looking for the right nesting spot to lay up to 19 eggs. But their habitats have been degraded and crisscrossed with highways, another reason the turtles are on the endangered list in Illinois and elsewhere.

Two newly hatched Blanding's turtles fit easily in the palm of a veterinarian's hand.

A head start on the future

Shedd is a partner with the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County in a head-start program for this species. In spring, wildlife experts collect and incubate the eggs. Then Shedd receives hatchlings to raise in a naturalistic setting behind the scenes. A team of veterinarians and aquarists provide the turtles with shallow ponds, ultraviolet light and nutritious baby turtle food—worms and other small prey raised at the aquarium. In fall, when the turtles are big and fast enough to escape from predators, they are released into a protected wetland habitat.

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