Summer is the best time to see reptiles crawling, swimming and slithering about. There are snakes and lizards and turtles. If you are lucky, you might even see one of Will County’s endangered turtle species — the Blanding’s turtle.
Blanding’s turtles are a medium-sized, water-loving turtles that usually look very happy. That’s because they have yellow throats that make them look like they are smiling. When they are young, they may sport many spots on their heads. They have rounded, tall shells that often have pretty patterns. Most Blanding’s turtles are green and brown, minus their yellow throats.
Words to know
Semiaquatic: Living on both land and water
Timid: Easily frightened or shy
Xanthic: Yellow or yellowish in color
Here are some questions the staff at the museum get asked about these wonderful animals.
Where do they live?
Blanding’s turtles are semiaquatic, which means that they like to spend a lot of time in slow-moving rivers, marshes and sometimes ponds. They come onto land occasionally, such as when laying their eggs or basking on a sunny rock to warm up.
How long do they live?
Talk about old age! In the wild, Blanding’s turtles can live to be 80 years old.
What do they eat?
They love dragonfly nymphs, tasty crawfish and other crustaceans and whatever fish they can catch. They are not above scavenging — that is they might eat something that is already dead. They are nature’s cleanup crew!
Why is that one yellow?
Every once in a while, you will find a Blanding’s turtle that is all yellow. They are called xanthic, which just means that their genes are different. Your genes are what make your hair black or brown or red or blond. It’s the same thing for the Blanding’s turtles. The only problem is that xanthic Blanding’s turtles are so bright they usually get eaten by predators. At Isle a la Cache Museum, Taco and Shirlee are xanthic.
How big do they get?
Blanding’s hatchlings start out about the size of quarters. As they get older, their shells grow to be about 10 inches across. That’s just a little less than a school ruler.
How long can they breathe underwater?
We don’t know. They can stay underwater for at least 15 minutes, probably 30 minutes and possibly even much longer. What an amazing adaptation!
Why are they endangered?
We are building houses and neighborhoods in their habitat and draining the wetlands that they call home. Roads cut through places that they need to travel to lay eggs. They also have a lot of predators, like raccoons and skunks, that eat their eggs and hatchlings. Blanding’s turtles don’t start laying eggs until they are 13 years old, so it takes a long time for them to create new turtles! They also have to look out for humans who want to take Blanding’s turtles as pets.
What are we doing to help them?
The Forest Preserve District of Will County is part of a head-start program that raises hatchlings until they are big enough that they won’t be eaten by a lot of their predators and have a better shot of survival. Then they are released into the wild.
Come see our Blanding’s turtles
Do you want to see these turtles for yourself? Visit Isle a la Cache Museum to visit H3, Taco, Shirlee and Jackie. Every Tuesday though July, an interpretive naturalist will bring one of the turtles out of their enclosure for a “Turtle Tuesday” program.
Interested in endangered species? Check out the “Inspired by Endangered Species: Animals and Plants in Fabric Perspectives” quilt exhibition at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center, Isle a la Cache Museum, Plum Creek Nature Center and Sugar Creek Administrative Center through Saturday, July 25. The exhibition includes 182 quilts showing endangered species from around the world.
You can also visit Plum Creek Nature Center for an “Endangered Species Quest” through Saturday, July 25. Participants will set off on a quest for Blanding’s turtles and 11 other endangered species.
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