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  • Writer's pictureNepahwin Lake Watershed Stewardship Group

Butt Breathing Blanding's Turtle

Updated: Apr 22, 2021

Yes, you read that correctly.


A Blanding’s turtle sunning with Painted Turtles on the golf course. Courtesy of Adrianna Delisle.

From late October to the end of April, Blanding's Turtles hibernate at the bottom of permanent bodies of water, so there is a very good chance that somewhere within the Nepahwin Lake watershed this little fella is deep in hibernation and breathing through its butt.

As the ice departs and the air warms, Blanding's Turtles will find their way to the surface. They are known to wander hundreds of metres from the water, especially while they are searching for a mate or traveling to a nesting site, so keep an eye out for this threatened species!


Who finds all of this fascinating?

Well, Dr. Jackie Litzgus, a Professor in Laurentian University's Department of Biology does!

She describes turtle hibernation as follows: “When turtles hibernate, they rely on stored energy and uptake oxygen from the pond water by moving it across body surfaces that are flush with blood vessels. In this way, they can get enough oxygen to support their minimal needs without using their lungs. Turtles have one area that is especially well vascularized — their butts.”

Jackie tells us just how awesome turtles are in The Secret of Turtle Hibernation: Butt Breathing.


Why should we be stewards for the Blanding’s turtle?

The Blanding’s Turtle was assessed as threatened under the Ontario Endangered Species Act, 2008 and this status was confirmed in May 2017. It can take a female Blanding’s Turtle up to 25 years to mature. This long-lived species can survive in the wild for more than 75 years. SEVENTY-FIVE!!!


What can you do?

Report a Sighting!

Images Courtesy of Brendan Toews (left), Michael Oldham (middle-left), Allen Woodliffe (middle-right) and Larry Watkins (right)

The Blanding’s Turtle is a medium-sized turtle easily identified by its bright yellow throat and chin. Unlike most Ontario turtles that have wide, flatter shells, the Blanding’s Turtle has a domed shell that resembles an army helmet. Its shell is black to brown with yellow flecks and streaks and can reach 27cm long. Its head and limbs are black-grey and the bottom shell is rich yellow.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry tracks species at risk such as the Blanding’s Turtle. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful. Follow this link to make a report:

And be sure to let us know too!


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