A conservation group wants the federal government to place the Blanding's turtle and nine other amphibians and reptiles under federal protection.
The Center for Biological Diversity is asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to put the Blanding's turtle on the Endangered Species List.
Minnesota and Nebraska are the only states that have sizable populations of Blanding's turtles. The medium- to large-sized turtles, which have striking yellow throats, live long lives but are vulnerable.
"Females don't even start reproducing until they're 14-20 yrs old, so these turtles just need to be left alone before they can even become productive," said Collete Adkins Giese, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. "If they're hit by a car, or taken out as pets, you just never get animals that are reproducing in the wild."
The turtles need wetlands for breeding but also upland habitats for nesting and foraging, Adkins Giese said.
Minnesota has good habitat for Blanding's turtles along the Mississippi River. The state listed the animal as a threatened species in 1984. Scientists are researching land management techniques that can help the Blanding's turtle.
"What's really tough for the Blanding's turtle is that, as it moves from the wetlands to the upland habitat, the forest, the prairie, these areas are often bisected by roads," Adkins Giese said. "Another big threat is road mortality; they just get hit by cars as they travel to their sites."