However, my very favorite turtle is one that we have right here in the headwaters region – the Blanding’s Turtle. Due to population declines, the Blanding’s Turtle is a species of special concern in Michigan but are locally common in northwest Oakland County.
This is a larger turtle that is very easily identified by its highly domed carapace or top shell, its bright yellow throat the color of sunshine, and the notched upper jaw which gives the illusion of a smile. Of course when I stop to move a turtle to the other side of the road in the direction she’s heading, I am absolutely sure that it is a smile she flashes my way as she moves through the wetland. And, if it is a female, she will travel through wetlands, over roads and yards, up to a kilometer looking for the perfect spot to lay her eggs.
The Blanding’s Turtle can take 14 to 20 years to reach sexual maturity, so any reproducing adult in the population is crucial to the continuation of the species, especially given the general vulnerability of the population. And, the habitat of the Blanding’s Turtle is as vulnerable as the species, as I often observe them basking on downed trees in isolated pockets of wetland such as vernal pools or buttonbush swamps.
So, please, keep your eyes focused for this beautiful reptile this spring and summer, and if you spot one on the road, help her on her way, and don’t worry – not only will she not bite, but I bet she’ll flash you a heartfelt smile of appreciation!