Don’t worry, be happy: Habitat selection of Blanding’s Turtles (Emydoidea blandingii) living in a reference condition in Georgian Bay

Meng, R.L and Chow-Fraser, P.
PLoS One
2023, Vol 18 (12): e0295067


Few areas within the Great Lakes basin are currently free from impact of human activities, and it is important to study these reference conditions for comparison with degraded sites in those regions. Here, we use radio telemetry to investigate habitat use, movement, and habitat selection of a population of the endangered (Federally in Canada) Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii, BLTU) inhabiting a mostly undisturbed archipelago located at the northern shore of Mnidoo gamii (Georgian Bay), Ontario over two active seasons (May to September 2021 and 2022). We found a mean home range of 16.21 ha for females (n = 7) and 15.10 ha for males (n = 7). Of the five habitat classes (Marsh, Open Water, Rock, Peatland, and Forest), females used all except Peatland during the nesting season, and both sexes used all five habitat classes throughout both active seasons in 2021 and 2022. Disproportionate habitat use was detected at the landscape scale but not at the home range scale which was consistent with the hypothesis that adult Blanding’s turtles residing in relatively undisturbed sites with abundant habitat types use all habitat types according to their availability. We also observed the use of open, deep water by Blanding’s Turtles as travel corridors for nesting and mating. Effective future conservation strategies should prioritize the protection and connectivity of relatively undisturbed wetlands, forests, and rock barrens in this region and use this study as a reference condition to compare BLTU habitat use and movement across disturbance gradients within Georgian Bay.