Blanding’s Turtle Habitat Requirements
and Implications for Conservation
in Dutchess County, New York


Hudsonia Ltd., Bard College Field Station, Annandale, NY 12504, USA

        ABSTRACT:  Blanding’s turtle, Emydoidea blandingii, listed as “Threatened” in New York State, occurs in Dutchess County and one other region of the state.  In Dutchess, at least 11 small populations (each 10–50+ adults) use complexes of several wetland units (0.03–7 ha).  Primary wetland habitats usually include the following characteristics: permanent or intermittent hydroperiod with little through flow; high water depths of 25–120 cm; tree canopy open or absent; tree fringe present; and a dense cover of shrubs, forbs, lemnids or nymphaeids, with coarse and fine organic debris.  A deeper permanent or spring-fed pond (used for drought refuge) and adjoining well-drained, gravelly soils are also believed to be important habitat components.  Adults readily move 100–500+ m between pools, and females migrate up to 1,000 m overland to nest.  There is evidence that existing small preserves are not large enough to contain nesting areas.  Loss of habitat and loss of individuals to road and mowing-equipment mortality, to collecting, and to predation are believed to be significant threats.
        Small reserves combined with statutory protection of wetlands were formerly thought adequate to conserve the species in Dutchess County, but the change from rural to suburban land use is overwhelming small-scale conservation efforts.  Given this trend, effective conservation of Blanding’s turtles requires that rural habitat complexes be conserved in large working landscapes of 5–10 km² that include parks, farms, and partially developed parcels.  A buffer zone of 1,000 m around wetland habitats will be necessary for effective preserve design.  I suggest habitat identification techniques and potential strategies that may balance the needs of Blanding’s turtle with inevitable suburban development in Dutchess County.

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