I wasn't expecting my usual Thursday round of golf to start out this way, but I'm glad it did. As I was walking onto the course at Pine Ridge Golf Course in Sartell, I noticed a turtle crawling across the cart path by the patio. I'm part of many nature-sharing-based groups on Facebook, so I pulled out my phone to snap a photo of what I originally thought to be a painted turtle, but upon further inspection turned out to be a Blanding's turtle.

The Blanding's turtle is easily identified by its bright yellow chin and yellow flecked, dome shaped shell. It has been a threatened species in Minnesota since 1984:

The Blanding's turtle is a late maturing, long-lived species unable to recover quickly from catastrophic events that reduce the population (Congdon et al. 1993). Their relatively low mobility, high juvenile mortality rate, and low reproductive potential are also limiting factors for population growth.

And like any other turtle species they are facing a loss of wetland areas to live, and often fall victim to vehicles when trying to cross the road.

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Blanding's turtles have delayed maturation, reaching sexual maturity at approximately 12 years old, and females only lay one clutch of eggs per year, so you can see why repopulation is hard when they suffer a large loss.

The Minnesota DNR created a timeline of how these threatened turtles spend their time:

March-April:   Emerging from overwintering sites

April-May:      Basking

April-June:      Travel to breeding sites

April-Sept:      Travel to foraging areas

May-July:        Females travel to/from nesting sites

May-July:        Laying eggs

June-Aug:        Egg incubation (75-110 days)

Aug-Oct:         Hatchling emergence and dispersal

April-Oct:       Moving between wetlands

July-Sept:        Travel to seek drought refuge

Sept-Oct:         Travel to overwintering sites

So I probably caught one that was traveling to a nesting site and that path just so happened to cut across Pine Ridge in Sartell. I feel so lucky to have spotted one of these cool critters. You just never know what you'll see.

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