Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Stephanie sent out word about an article she saw in the Victoria Times-Colonist. It appears that Vancouver Island's only native turtle species is having a bit of a hard time. Kayakers and recreational boaters can help. These painted turtles are very shy, so if you come around a corner in a lake and think you might see a few turtles sunning themselves on a log at the water's edge, for pity's sake don't crowd them! John took some photos of turtles with a good lens when we were at Thetis Lake, and posted them here on the blog. You're not gonna get close enough to any turtle in the wild to get a better picture, so try to get some satisfaction instead from not scaring an endangered species.
Here's the article, quoted with permission, or you can go to the newspaper's website at http://www.timescolonist.com/ -- the copyright is still held by the Times-Colonist newspaper:

Island turtles’ habitat under threat

Development puts endangered species at risk: biologist
Vancouver Island’s only native freshwater turtle is in trouble and hikers and homeowners are being asked to help.
The Pacific coast population of western painted turtles, is listed as endangered, with estimates of only 250 adult turtles remaining and the Habitat Acquisition Trust is asking anyone who sees one to make a report and, preferably, take a photograph.
“It’s not just the turtles which are endangered, it’s their habitat,” said HAT land care co-ordinator Todd Carnahan. “Over 90 per cent of the wetlands have been drained in this area of southern Vancouver Island.”
Development is a major threat, but it is possible to have development and protect turtle habitat, so HAT wants to identify where turtles are hanging out and then help protect that area.
Western painted turtles are fussy about their living accommodation and like weedy ponds, with logs or rocks for sunning themselves, and a nearby open area with a southern exposure for laying eggs.
The females dig nests with their hind feet, sometimes up to 300 metres from their ponds.
That is where some of the problems arise, said Carnahan, a biologist.
Eggs laid on beaches, trails, lawns and roads are being trampled, run over and eaten.
HAT herpetologist Christian Engelstoft said landowners who have found turtles on their property have helped contribute to a better understanding of the population distribution and the type of habitat they prefer.
“But we still need to learn more about their movements over land, particularly in the summer nesting season,” he said.
Nesting season will continue for about another three weeks.
Painted turtles are known to live in Elk and Beaver lakes, Langford Lake and Great Central Lake near Port Alberni.
If the turtles are on private property, the information will be kept confidential, and HAT will advise on how best to protect the habitat, Carnahan said, acknowledging that some people don’t want to know an endangered turtle is living on their property.
“But many people are thrilled to find a rare species on their land,” he said.
Simple habitat protection measures include keeping natural shoreline vegetation, avoiding pesticide use and protecting nesting areas from disturbance.
Painted turtles have a smooth, dark green upper shell and brilliant orange and red patterns on the lower shell.
“They are so beautiful,” Carnahan said.
Hatchlings are no larger than a loonie, but adults can grow up to 30 centimetres. “That’s really big. A turtle that big may be over 100 years old,” Carnahan said.
The usual lifespan on Vancouver Island is about 30 years, but, with rapid urbanization and isolation of small populations, that is shrinking, he said.
Another threat is released turtle pets, such as red-eared sliders and peninsula cooters, which can transmit diseases and compete for food and habitat.
To make a turtle report e-mail hatmail@hat.bc.ca or call 250-995-2428.

2 Aug 2008
Times Colonist

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