There are over 8,240 species of reptiles in the world! There are 10 species of turtles, 18 species of snakes and only 2 species of lizards, for a total of 30 reptile species in Michigan.
- Are vertebrates. This means they have a backbone or spine.
- Are “ectothermic” or cold-blooded. Ectothermic animals can NOT regulate their body temperature, which means they have to seek warmer or cooler habitats depending on what their body needs.
- Are covered with dry scales.
- Typically lay soft-shelled eggs. However, a few reptiles give birth to live young (Garter Snake being 1 example).
- The presence of at least 1 permanent lung unlike their amphibian relatives.
Flower & Pepe Our Common Musk Turtles
Our female Musk turtle, Flower, came to Blandford in 2011. She was an illegal pet that was confiscated by animal control. Her illegal owner did not take proper care of her and she now has serious shell defects. She is also missing her right back foot.
Pepe came to Blandford shortly after Flower. He is missing a back leg and was emaciated when he arrived. He also was an illegal pet. Thankfully, the staff at Blandford has nursed him back to health, but he can never be released back into the wild due to his missing back leg.
Musk turtles tend to search for food on the sandy bottoms of streams, ponds and lakes. They eat snails, insects, crayfish, tadpoles, small fish and small amounts of plant matter.
These turtles inhabit shallow streams, ponds, rivers and shallow areas of clear lakes with sandy bottoms.
- Musk turtles help control insect populations.
Musk turtles release an unpleasant odor when threatened.
- This species is very aggressive and will not hesitate to bite if handled.
Status of American Kestrels in Michigan
This species is a year-round resident in Michigan.
Threats to Wild American Kestrels
Currently, there are no serious threats to American Kestrel populations.
Brutus & Phillip Our Eastern Box Turtles
Brutus was brought in to Blandford Nature Center in 2005. He was found in Grand Rapids and was missing part of both his back legs and one eye, most likely due to an attack by a predator. Brutus would not be able to properly bury himself for hibernation in the wild.
Phillip was brought to us in 2012. He was confiscated by a veterinarian who had taken him from a man that had been keeping him as an illegal pet. Under his owner’s improper care, Phillip developed kidney disease so he periodically needs medication for his kidneys, which he wouldn’t receive in the wild, and that is why he lives at the nature center.
Eastern Box Turtles eat earthworms, insects, slugs, snails, mushrooms, berries, and leafy greens. Young turtles (5-6 years old) eat only meat while adults eat both meat and vegetation.
Eastern Box Turtles prefer deciduous or mixed woodlands with sandy soils and access to water.
- This species helps keep insect populations in check and helps to disperse seeds of the berries that they eat.
- Eastern Box Turtles have a plastral hinge (the front part of the shell on their belly) that allows the box turtle to sick their legs and head into the shell and fold up shut, like a box.
- Eastern Box Turtles can live over 100 years!
Status of Eastern Box Turtles in Michigan
Eastern Box Turtles are protected by Michigan law as a species of special concern.
Threats to Wild Eastern Box Turtles
Eastern Box Turtle populations are declining rapidly due to habitat loss, collecting for pets, and road mortality.
How Can We Help
- Leave these turtles in the wild where they belong. It is against the law to keep Box Turtles!
- Report any illegal harm or collection of turtles by contacting the Michigan Natural Features Inventory at 517-373-1552.
- Be aware of Box Turtles that may be crossing busy roads.
Willow Our Wood Turtle
Willow was discovered in Wyoming, MI suffering from leg injuries in 2004. She is a permanent resident at Blandford because her injuries have left her with two stumps for front limbs, most likely caused by an attack from either a dog or raccoon. Her front leg injuries prevent her from being able to bury herself and hibernate safely through the winter.
Wood Turtles like to eat various types of vegetation growing along rivers and streams such as raspberries, strawberries, grasses, willows, algae and moss.
Wood Turtles prefer to live near clear, medium sized streams and rivers with sandy areas for nesting and lots of vegetation for eating. In Michigan, Wood Turtles live primarily in the northern parts of the state.
- Wood Turtles help disperse the seeds of the fruits that they eat.
- Wood Turtles can feed both under water and on land.
- In addition to vegetation, they sometimes eat dead animals (carrion).
- During the winter, Wood Turtles hibernate under ice where the water stays above freezing. They will sometimes hibernate in beaver lodges or muskrat burrows!
Status of Wood Turtles in Michigan
Due to a rapid decline in populations of Wood Turtles over the past 30 years, these turtles are a state species of special concern
Threats to Wild Wood Turtles
The greatest threat facing Wood Turtles is human activity. Taking these turtles from the wild and keeping them as pets has greatly reduced their numbers. These turtles also have very low reproductive success, so each and every one of them is important to maintain their numbers in the wild. If one female is taken from the wild, it really isn’t just that one turtle that is taken, but all of her potential hatchling babies and the babies that those babies would have had.
How Can We Help
- Leave Wood Turtles in the wild where they belong so they can continue to contribute to their populations.
- Taking Wood Turtles from the wild is illegal and any suspected collection of their species should be reported to the local authorities.
- Help keep streams and rivers clean and free of pollution by reducing the use of fertilizers and pesticides near waterways.
- Help keep track of Wood Turtle populations by contracting the Michigan Natural Features Inventory by calling 517-373-1552.
Hosta, Curt & Leonardo Our Painted Turtles
Hosta came to Blandford after a dog bite left her with a missing chunk of her shell in 2007. This would make it impossible for her to tuck safely into her shell when in danger.
Curt and Leonardo came in with leg injuries due to car accidents or attacks by predators in 2009 and 2011. Due to their leg injuries, these turtles would not be able to dig into the mud to hibernate during the winter.
Painted Turtles eat aquatic plants, insects, tadpoles, small fish, snails, crayfish, and carrion.
Painted Turtles prefer bodies of shallow water with muddy bottoms. They can be found in ponds, lakes marshes, and slow-moving rivers and streams.
- Painted turtles help keep populations of small fish, crustaceans, and other invertebrates in check.
- Hatchling Painted Turtles produce a type of natural antifreeze to survive the cold temperatures of the fall and winter season while hibernating.
- Painted Turtles can tolerate organic pollution better than some other turtle species.
Status of Painted Turtles in Michigan
Painted Turtles are the most common turtle species in Michigan.
Threats to Wild Painted Turtles
There are currently no serious threats to populations of this species.
Mrs. Plithiver Our Garter Snake
Mrs. Plithiver was brought to Blandford in 2012. She was missing part of her tail probably due to predator attack and had developed an infection that was traveling up her body. After clearing up the infection, we were surprised to find that Mrs. Plithiver gave birth to 14 baby Garter Snakes. The babies were released into the wild while their mother stayed at Blandford for monitoring.
They feed on earthworms, frogs, toads, tadpoles, fish, and small mammals.
These snakes are found almost everywhere in fields, marshes, woods, parks, and backyards.
- Garter Snakes help control the numbers of rodents and insects.
- Like many snakes, they release a musky smelling anal secretion when threatened or handled.
- Unlike a lot of snakes, which lay soft-shelled eggs, Garter Snakes give birth to live babies.
- Garter Snakes are the most common species of snake found in Michigan.
Status of Garter Snakes in Michigan
Garter Snakes are common and reside in both the Upper and Lower Peninsula.
Threats to Wild Garter Snakes
There are currently no threats to this species.