MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A turtle that’s found in parts of Minnesota is catching the eye of the federal government.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources already classifies the Blanding’s turtle as threatened.
There are about 10,000 of them in our state, but there used to be many more. Their numbers are shrinking as their natural habitat gets gobbled up by construction.
“We’ve drained most of our wetlands for development and agriculture, so a lot of their habitat was lost, and what habitat was left was fragmented by roads and development,” said John Moriarty, the wildlife manager at Eastman Nature Center.
Blanding’s turtles live at the nature center at Elm Creek Park Reserve in Maple Grove.
Moriarty says predators like raccoons and skunks often dig up Blanding’s turtles’ eggs and eat them.
“Having some of the eggs eaten, and some of the baby turtles eaten is not a problem, but the adults, once they reach adulthood, over 15 years, you have to maintain 95 percent of your population to maintain a healthy population,” Moriarty said.
And that’s hard when you are a species that likes to roam.
The female Blanding’s turtles are known for moving up to a mile to lay their eggs, and sometimes they don’t make it.
“The turtles can’t get across the road or if they try to, they end up getting hit because a turtle’s defense mechanism is to pull into a shell,” Moriarty said. “A turtle shell is not good against a Chevy or a Ford.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service will spend the next two years studying the species before determining if it should be classified as endangered.
“We would have a lot more paperwork, but that’s OK if we can help protect the turtles,” Moriarty said.
Blanding’s turtles are larger than most, and they can live to be 70 years old.
If the Blanding’s turtle is designated as endangered, then steps will have to be taken to protect the species. There’d be new regulations before new roads or houses could be built in areas where they are known to live.
To learn more about the turtles, click here to go to the Eastman Nature Center’s website.