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.
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.