Nebraska Game and Parks Commission


Date of this Version



Blanding’s Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) A Species Conservation Assessment for The Nebraska Natural Legacy Project. Prepared by Melissa J. Panella and Colleen Rothe-Groleau, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Wildlife Division, October 2021


The primary goal in development of at-risk species conservation assessments is to compile biological and ecological information that may assist conservation practitioners in making decisions regarding the conservation of species of interest. The Nebraska Natural Legacy Project recognizes the Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) as a Tier 1 at-risk species. Some general management recommendations are made here regarding Blanding’s turtles; however, conservation practitioners will need to use professional judgment to make specific management decisions based on objectives, location, and a multitude of variables. This resource was designed to share available knowledge of this at-risk turtle that will aid in the decision-making process or in identifying research needs to benefit the species. Species conservation assessments will need to be updated as relevant scientific information becomes available and/or conditions change. The Nebraska Natural Legacy Project focuses efforts in the state’s Biologically Unique Landscapes, but it is recommended that whenever possible, practitioners make considerations for a species throughout its range in order to increase the outcome of successful conservation efforts.

Criteria for selection as Tier I: Ranked as imperiled or vulnerable in all but one state in its range

Trends since 2005 in NE: Stable

Range in NE Primarily Sandhills marshes, very locally in eastern portion of state

Habitat: Requires proximity to water; Sandhills fens, Sandhills freshwater marsh, northern cordgrass wet prairie, small tributaries, Sandhills prairies (upland habitat), marshes and oxbows in eastern portion of state

Threats in NE: Habitat fragmentation and loss of wetlands in eastern part of range; vehicle mortality; collection for pet trade

Climate Change Vulnerability Index: Not Vulnerable; presumed stable

Research/Inventory Continue surveys along eastern edge of range within the state as populations recover from extreme weather events of 2019; Continue population monitoring in the Sandhills region and areas further south and west in the state; Collect DNA samples for population research

Landscapes Cherry County Wetlands, Dismal River Headwaters, Elkhorn Confluence, Elkhorn River Headwaters, Lower Loup Rivers, Lower Platte River, Middle Niobrara, Upper Loup Rivers and Tributaries

According to the last review in 2020, the subnational conservation status rank for Blanding’s turtle is S4 (‘apparently secure’), indicating that the species is “at a fairly low risk of extirpation in the state due to an extensive range and/or many populations or occurrences, but with possible cause for some concern as a result of local recent declines, threats, or other factors (Master et al. 2012).” In contrast, in each of the other states/provinces in its range compared to Nebraska, the species is less secure. The global conservation rank is G4 (NatureServe 2020). The definition of G4 is similar to the definition of S4 but uses the world rather than the state as a geographic reference and refers to the risk of extinction as opposed to extirpation. The Blanding’s turtle was included on the Tier 1 list of at-risk species (Schneider et al 2018), because it met the criterion of being imperiled or vulnerable in all but one state in its range. Extensive surveys conducted from April 2002 through August 2003 and again in 2021 by Dr. Jeffrey Lang on Valentine National Wildlife Refuge contributed to the recommendation that the species should continue to be monitored and conserved in Nebraska based on widespread decline throughout the rest of its range (Lang 2004, Lang, pers. comm. 2022). The Nebraska Natural Legacy Science Team, consisting of members representing numerous agencies, was tasked with setting a quantitative conservation goal for target species, so that multiple populations could be conserved. The team considered the species’ widespread range throughout the United States and Canada when they set a target goal of maintaining at least four populations of Blanding’s turtles within Nebraska. The quantitative goals set by the Science Team are an approximation and are subject to change as new information becomes available. (Schneider et al. 2011).