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Western Pond Turtle
Western Pond Turtle
 
 

WHY OUR TURTLES ARE DISAPPEARING

There are many threats to the survival of our native turtles.

:: Loss of wetlands

  • Many of Oregon's wetlands have been lost to development and agriculture. With the loss of wetlands go the turtles and many other native animals.

:: Poaching

  • Even though it's illegal, people continue to take turtles from the wild - to eat, to sell or to take home as pets. If you see turtles for sale on web sites, it's extremely unlikely that they were bred in captivity, even if it's claimed that they were.

:: Competition from non-native turtles

  • Red-eared sliders and snapping turtles are native east of the Rockies and have no place in Pacific Northwest ecosystems.
  • Pet owners who set loose unwanted pets have introduced these turtles here.
  • When turtles bite on fishing bait, they frequently swallow the hooks. This can be fatal as the hooks are difficult to remove.

:: Fishing

  • When turtles bite on fishing bait, they frequently swallow the hooks. This can be fatal as the hooks are difficult to remove.

:: Traffic

  • Turtles are slow. Cars and trucks are fast. Turtles' tough little shells are no match for our vehicles.

:: Loss of nesting sites

  • Female turtles leave their aquatic habitats in the summer to nest on nearby land. They look for open, sunny, sparsely vegetated areas, since their nests are incubated by the sun.
  • The turtles' nesting habitat is disappearing not only because of human encroachment, but because of the invasion of non-native plant species, such as reed canary grass, blackberry and Scotch broom.
  • When these plants become dominant, turtles can't easily dig in the substrate, and the sun doesn't reach their nests.

:: Predation of Young by Bullfrogs and other non-native predators

  • Bullfrogs are native to the eastern United States where they are an important part of wetland ecosystems. In Oregon, they are out of place and out of control. In some areas they eat almost 100 percent of the baby native turtles.
  • As a result, our remaining Willamette Valley turtles are almost all elderly and their efforts to reproduce are in vain.
  • Introduced largemouth bass and snapping turtles also prey on baby turtles.

:: Disturbance by boaters

  • Basking is CRUCIAL to the survival of turtles. Turtles must keep warm to digest food and develop eggs. If they are continually disturbed in a particular area, they will leave and try to find a place with fewer disturbances.
  • It is important for boaters, including kayakers and canoers, to keep a safe distance (at least 100 feet) from basking turtles.
We can keep our native turtles from disappearing by practicing turtle friendly behavior. (Turtles and you)

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Oregon's turtles need your help for their long-term protection and conservation. Biologists are working on an updated census of Oregon turtles. If you see any, let us know. If you don't have answers to all these questions, it's OK. Biologists will go take a look. The more detailed the information, the more helpful it will be in determining what species you have seen, location, etc.



:: Leave native turtles alone!

  • Many of Oregon's wetlands have been lost to development and agriculture. With the loss of wetlands go the turtles and many other native animals.

:: Poaching

  • It's illegal to pick them up and move them, and you'll do more harm than good if you take them to a nearby pond or otherwise change their location. It's illegal to keep native turtles as pets or to move them to your property.
  • If you see anyone picking up native turtles, call the Fish and Wildlife Division of the Oregon State Police at 800-452-7888.

:: Take injured turtles to a rehab center

  • Slow turtles often have collisions with fast vehicles. The one instance in which it is OK to pick up turtles is when you find them injured. It's OK to help them across the road in the same direction they were headed—wash your hands afterward. In Portland, contact the Pacific Northwest Turtle Project or take them to the Audubon Society of Portland's Wildlife Care Center, 5151 NW Cornell Road. Do NOT take healthy turtles to a rehab center. Just leave them be.

:: Don't release pet-store turtles into the wild

  • Pet-store turtles are non-native turtles that can out-compete native turtles and give them diseases.

:: Leash your dog!

  • Better yet, leave your dog at home when you are going to a natural place. Instead, take them to a dog park or a designated off-leash area of a city park. Please don't let your dogs off-leash near ponds, rivers or wetlands. Don't throw sticks in the water for dogs to fetch if there's any chance turtles may be present. Also, curb any digging behavior. Turtles bury their eggs in the ground, often some distance from the water.
  • Your dog may smell them and dig them up. If you live near a wetland, keep an eye on outdoor cats as well.

:: Watch your wake!

  • If you have a motorboat, be mindful of turtles. Your wake can send turtles flying off their basking logs.

:: Carefully remove fishing hooks

  • If you catch a turtle when fishing, don't cut the line. The hook may get trapped in its esophagus and the turtle will slowly starve to death.
  • If you can't get the hook out easily, take the turtle to a wildlife rehab facility.

:: Teach children to respect turtles and other wild things

  • Learn about native turtles and pass on your interest and knowledge.

:: Volunteer to help turtles and other wildlife

  • Volunteer to help biologists monitor turtles or help with a habitat restoration project. Organizations that sponsor projects include the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Oregon Zoo and Metro Parks and Green spaces. Support organizations that help turtles and restore turtle habitats.
  • Many organizations are working to protect native turtles and restore the wetlands they depend on. We've compiled a list of a few that could use your help.

CONSERVATION EFFORTS

Western pond turtle recovery plan

:: Monitoring program Western painted turtle

Watershed Restoration Coordinator Laura Guderyahn and city of Gresham

Laura Guderyahn along with volunteers from Gresham are monitoring Western painted turtle population in their area. Every year turtle nesting sites are marked. The following spring, they watch each nest carefully and when the hatchlings emerge, they weigh, measure, and photograph them. In 2010 they monitored 17 nests that produced 67 healthy hatchlings. In combination with the ODFW, they also trap and measure/photograph turtles in the spring and fall to monitor how the population is doing.

:: Surveys for Oregon's Two Imperiled Turtle Species

The Northwest Ecological Research Institute is conducting a study on the Western Painted and Western Pond Turtles. With help from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Oregon Zoo, Metro Parks and GreenSpaces and many others, this study is the first of many that will contribute to the long term effort of collecting data on the turtle's habitat use, quality and quantity. Funded by Oregon Zoo’s Future for wildlife grant.

:: Turtle surveys

Terrestrial Ecology Enhancement Strategy - City of Portland, Oregon

Surveys were conducted in the Columbia Slough and Johnson Creek watersheds in 2009, and site-specific management recommendations were made, supplementing general guidelines developed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Lower Willamette Native Turtle Working Group. The Terrestrial Ecology Enhancement Strategy and other participants of the working group also provided funding for statewide assessments of both the painted and the pond turtle. These assessments will play a critical role in the development of a conservation plan for both species.

:: Population Demography and Movement Patterns of the Northwest Pond Turtle in the Willamette Valley, Oregon: 2007 Pilot Study

Study PDF

 
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The Lower Willamette Turtle Conservation Project was formed to share expertise among various organizations and agencies involved in turtle conservation and to promote appreciation and conservation of turtles by all Oregonians.
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