Recovery Strategy for the Blanding's Turtle, Nova Scotia Population, in Canada [proposed] 2011: Species Information

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Recommended citation:

Parks Canada. 2010. Recovery Strategy for the Blanding's turtle (Emydoidea blandingii), Nova Scotia population, in Canada. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series. Parks Canada, Ottawa. xx + XX pp.

For copies of the recovery strategy, or for additional information on species at risk, including COSEWIC Status Reports, residence descriptions, action plans, and other related recovery documents, please visit the Species at Risk Public Registry (

Cover illustration: Adult Blanding's turtle basking © Jeffie McNeil

Également disponible en français sous le titre
« Stratégie de rétablissement de la population néo-écossaise de tortues
mouchetées (Emydoidea blandingii) au Canada »

Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the, 2010. All rights reserved.
ISBN 978-1-100-18469-2
Catalogue no. En3-4/101-2011E-PDF

Content (excluding the illustrations) may be used without permission, with appropriate credit to the source.


The federal, provincial, and territorial government signatories under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk (1996) agreed to establish complementary legislation and programs that provide for effective protection of species at risk throughout Canada. Under the Species at Risk Act (S.C. 2002, c.29) (SARA), the federal competent ministers are responsible for the preparation of recovery strategies for listed Extirpated, Endangered, and Threatened species and are required to report on progress within five years.

The Minister of the Environment and the Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency are the competent ministers for the recovery of the Blanding's turtle, Nova Scotia population, and has prepared this strategy, as per section 37 of SARA. It has been prepared in cooperation with the Blanding's Turtle Recovery Team, Province of Nova Scotia and numerous additional individuals and agencies, academics, environmental non-government organizations, industry stakeholders, Aboriginal groups, and volunteers.

Success in the recovery of this species depends on the commitment and cooperation of many different constituencies that will be involved in implementing the directions set out in this strategy and will not be achieved by Environment Canada and the Parks Canada Agency, or any other jurisdiction alone. All Canadians are invited to join in supporting and implementing this strategy for the benefit of the Blanding's turtle, Nova Scotia population, and Canadian society as a whole.

This recovery strategy will be followed by one or more action plans that will provide information on recovery measures to be taken by Environment Canada and the Parks Canada Agency and other jurisdictions and/or organizations involved in the conservation of the species. Implementation of this strategy is subject to appropriations, priorities, and budgetary constraints of the participating jurisdictions and organizations.


This strategy was prepared by Jennifer McNeil, in collaboration with the Blanding's turtle recovery team.

The recovery team has contributed to the science and communications for the recovery of the Blanding's turtle, in addition to the advice provided for this recovery strategy. We would like to acknowledge the contributions of the many volunteers, landowners, students, field assistants and interns who have helped with Blanding's turtle recovery over the years. Their field work and participation in recovery team meetings is much appreciated.

Recommendation And Approval Statement

The Parks Canada Agency led the development of this federal recovery strategy, working together with the other competent minister(s) for this species under the Species at Risk Act. The Chief Executive Officer, upon recommendation of the relevant Park Superintendent(s) and Field Unit Superintendent(s), hereby approves this document indicating that Species at Risk Act requirements related to recovery strategy development (sections 37-42) have been fulfilled in accordance with the Act.

All competent ministers have approved posting of this recovery strategy on the Species at Risk Public Registry.

Executive Summary

Blanding's turtles (Emydoidea blandingii) are typically found in shallow wetlands with abundant vegetation. During their life, they use a variety of habitats and may travel considerable distances from water, particularly for nesting. They take about 20 years to mature and can live for over 80 years. The Nova Scotia population is isolated from the species' main range and their distribution in the province appears to be limited to the southwest interior. To date, three main populations have been identified as well as two smaller concentrations. These main populations exhibit significant differences in behaviour, morphology, habitat use and fecundity. Viability analysis suggests that at least two of the populations may be at significant risk of extinction. The isolation, restricted distribution, small population size and projected decline and have resulted in the listing of the Nova Scotia population as Endangered under both the federal Species At Risk Act (S.C. 2002, c.29) and the Nova Scotia Endangered Species Act (S.N.S. 1998, c.11).

Known and potential threats identified in this recovery strategy include increased adult mortality from road kill and collection and other activities habitat loss from activities such as development, agricultural, forestry and recreational practices; increased predator populations associated with human development, and the effect of climate change. Blanding's turtles in Nova Scotia are limited in their ability to respond to threats and habitat changes by their long generation time (approx. 40 years), physiology and geographic isolation. Their slow maturation and longevity makes them especially vulnerable to increases in adult mortality. Their long generation time can also delay their ability to respond quickly to threats and can result in significant time lags in recovery. These limitations can constrain researchers' abilities to detect changes in the population until long after an event has occurred.

At the present time, recovery is considered feasible. The long term objectives are to achieve a self-sustaining population of Blanding's turtles in Nova Scotia by maintaining and/or increasing the three existing populations and two known concentrations over the current range, with a less than 5% risk of extinction in each recognized population when projected over 10 generations (400 years), and to maintain sufficient gene flow to prevent any single population from becoming genetically isolated. Intermediate objectives have also been identified; these objectives are described in Section 5 and a list of broad strategies and approaches to achieving recovery are outlined in Section 6. Research and recovery actions have been underway for many years, and the strategic approaches taken in this strategy build on these actions. While research has increased knowledge of much of the turtles' life history and habitat requirements, significant knowledge gaps remain and are identified in Section 3.5.

Critical habitat is identified for the Blanding's turtle in Nova Scotia at all five known sites. For each site, high use areas were identified by mapping turtle locations and applying the guidelines outlined in Section 7. Following this, critical habitat was identified by delineating a polygon that connects all of the high use areas. This multi-scale approach allows for the identification of both the overall extent of critical habitat within a population and the highly used areas that may require special management considerations. The identified critical habitat is necessary for the recovery of the species, but may not be sufficient to achieve the population and distribution objectives due to insufficient knowledge of the turtle's distribution.

One or more actions plans will be completed by December 2014.

Recovery Feasibility Summary

At this time, recovery of Blanding's turtles in Nova Scotia is considered to be feasible according to the criteria identified in the Policy on the Feasibility of Recovery (Government of Canada 2005), as outlined in Table 3.

Table 3. Feasibility of recovery criteria.
Criteria Meets criteria?
1. Individuals of the wildlife species that are capable of reproduction are available now or in the foreseeable future to sustain the population or improve its abundance
2. Sufficient habitat is available to support the species or could be made available through habitat management or restoration
3. The primary threats to the species or its habitat (including threats outside of Canada) can be avoided or mitigated.
4. Recovery techniques exist to achieve the population and distribution objectives or can be expected to be developed within a reasonable time frame

The population contains individuals capable of reproduction, and it is believed that sufficient habitat is available to support the population. While some threats, such as vehicular mortality, are difficult to avoid, Population Viability Analysis suggests that a combination of management actions aimed at increasing recruitment and reducing threats could effectively recover these populations (Bourque at al 2006).

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