Thursday, July 31, 2008

Rehabilitated turtles return home to the sea

By Staff reports

Wed Jul 30, 2008, 02:00 PM EDT


Five Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles were released on Dowses Beach in the village of Osterville Wednesday. The sea turtles – all juveniles – were found cold-stunned between November 2006 and January 2008, and rescued by volunteers from the Massachusetts Audubon Society Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.

Six regional marine animal organizations worked rehabilitation and release: New England Aquarium, National Marine Life Center, University of New England Marine Animal Rehabilitation Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Woods Hole Science Aquarium, and the Riverhead Foundation.

Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles are the world’s most endangered sea turtle, with only a few thousand breeding females known to exist in the wild. Kemp’s Ridleys are also among the smallest of the sea turtles, with adults weighing up to 100 pounds and reaching about two feet in length. The juveniles being released weigh 10 to 25 pounds. Kemp’s Ridleys range includes the Gulf coasts of Mexico and the United States, and the Atlantic coast of North America.

Late each fall, many juvenile sea turtles feeding in Cape Cod Bay fail to migrate south. Since the turtles are cold-blooded, their bodies assume the temperature of the water around them and they eventually become hypothermic. Some die at sea while others drift to shore. Volunteers from Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary rescue the turtles along the beach and transport them to rehabilitation centers. There the turtles are slowly warmed and treated for complications of hypothermia, including pneumonia and bone and joint problems. Sea turtle stranding season lasts from late October through December.

“Saving these critically endangered animals is essential to ocean conservation. We’re thrilled to be working alongside institutions such as the New England Aquarium, Marine Animal Rehabilitation Center, MassAudubon, Riverhead, and NOAA in the fight to save stranded sea turtles on Cape Cod” said Kathy Zagzebski, NMLC President and executive director.

Two of the turtles will be tagged prior to release to gather information about their post-release behavior, survival, migration and habitat, and to see how the rehabilitation techniques affect the turtles in the wild. “Lavender” is being fitted with a satellite tag that was funded by donors at NMLC’s 2007 Mermaid Ball fundraising gala. “Scooby Doo” will be fitted with a tag generously provided by the Riverhead Foundation. The satellite tags, which weigh less than 2 ounces, are attached to the turtles’ shells just behind their necks. Physical identification tags are also placed on the turtles’ flippers and a PIT tag just under their skin. The public may follow the turtles’ progress at

Source: Wicked Local

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sea Turtle Hospital

Sea Turtle Hospital News

July 30, 2008 - 11:16AM

She's got turtles on the Brame

At first she was as quiet as a mouse. But we soon found out that this little mouse can roar, especially when she's educating our visitors about our sea turtles. Intern Bailey Brame's family has a home on the island, so her prior experience with our hospital was that of a typical island visitor, taking a tour during our open house. But as anyone who has spent time on Topsail will tell you, through some kind of weird osmosis, sea turtles get into your blood. During her visits Bailey began closely observing the coastal surroundings and the particular stresses that the turtles were confronting, wondering what she could do to help. It was her concern about the environment and her desire to work for a non-profit that led her to our internship.

A twenty-minute tour doesn't accurately reflect the effort that goes on behind the scenes, and Bailey was amazed at the amount of hands-on work that's required to get our turtles healthy and ready for their adoring public. Even more surprising to her was that fact that she was given a lot of responsibility from her first day. Her favorite turtle is "Boater" who was admitted last fall with horrific propeller wounds. Boater is quite a challenge. After being plated and screwed back together at the vet school most of his wounds are healed. But there's still one very deep hole that requires about an hour of precise and patient flushing and packing. Obviously it's been time well spent, as Bailey reports the hole is finally beginning to show signs of healing.

Bailey was on-hand for our June release, and is thrilled to know that Boater will someday be taking that short ride to the beach. She's especially proud of how her fellow interns all "kick into high gear" for incoming turtles, focusing and working together to get the turtle cleaned, medicated and settled into a tank to begin the healing process.

Bailey is astounded at the enormous fan base our turtles have, drawing huge crowds to the hospital during the five days we open during the week. Once there you'll find her wearing many hats: greeter, crowd control and behind the tank telling the story of a patient. When she's not at the hospital she's a pretty low-maintenance type of gal: reading, sewing, knitting and cooking. In a few short weeks this Durham native returns Wellesley College in Massachusetts as a junior majoring in Economics, knowing now that sea turtles are priceless.

Topsail Turtle Project

The Turtle Project coordinators have a new project, and we have you all to thank for making us aware of this need. We get a lot of questions on the beach and at the hospital about sea turtle etiquette (not the turtles, their manners are just fine!)

Everyone wants to do the right thing by our turtles, so we've created a flyer explaining all the stuff you need to know to co-exist with our island's oldest visitors. Our beach crew visited local real estate/ property management groups to ask that they include this information in their rental packages. We'd like to thank the following for their support in doing so: Century 21, Treasure Realty, Island Realty, Intracoastal Realty and Coldwell Banker Coastline Realty.

If our volunteers have inadvertently overlooked you (it's possible, with so many places renting units) call Gayle Childress at (910) 328-7116 who will gladly supply you with whatever you need.

Our sea turtle mamas continue to bust their carapaces laying nests. Visit our website to see just how hard they're working: Please report all sea turtle activity (nestings, strandings, injured turtles or hatchings) to our Director of Beach Operations, Terry Meyer at 910-470-2880.

Hospital open house

Our record-breaking crowds continue, although recent donations have been, to put it kindly, puzzling. Come on folks! Where else can you see a sea turtle without forking over big bucks, and even big bucks won't get you as up close and personal as you'll be at our hospital. We know the economy is tanking, and everyone is cutting back. But really, if you come through with your family of eight and don't even throw a few dollars in the donation jar - well - there is such a thing as karma. But to those of you "picking up the slack," outfitting your family in our T-shirts, or throwing in the $20s and even $100 bills - God bless you for your generosity!

We open daily from 2 to 4 p.m., except Wednesday and Sunday, through August. Our gift shop is also open during those hours. We occasionally close without notice for incoming turtles and dangerous weather conditions, but generally for only a short period of time. Please note that two incorrect phone numbers appear in various places in the "Coaster" magazine: the correct number for reporting turtle activity/strandings is: 910-470-2880. The correct number for the hospital is: 910-328-3377.

Last month for Turtle Talks

Turtle Talks continue every Wednesday through August. This one-hour presentation, 3:45 to 4:45 p.m. is chock full of visuals and handouts that are appropriate for ages K-adult. Cameras are welcome and there'll be plenty of great photo ops. The site is the Surf City Community Center, JH Batts Rd. (off Rt. 210 between Docksider and Gilligans.) Admission is free but donations for our turtles are appreciated. Please leave food and drinks in the car. For more information call the hospital at: 910-328-3377.

Yard Sale just around the corner.

We're gearing up for our Labor Day Weekend Yard Sale. I'll give you the 411 as soon as it's finalized.

Questions, comments or suggestions for stories

Contact me at:

Karen Sota is the volunteer media coordinator for the Sea Turtle Hospital in Topsail Beach.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Fence shell-ters turtles in traffic

By Renee Nadeau | Sunday, July 27, 2008 |
Photo by Courtesy

Animal advocates are hoping a threatened turtle is in the fast lane to survival thanks to a highway fence erected by volunteers.

Volunteers from Bristol-Myers Squibb in Devens, the state Fish & Wildlife Services and MassHighway erected the fence along a busy highway in central Massachusetts, reducing the turtle mortality rate along the stretch.

That was good news for the Blanding’s turtle, listed as “threatened” by the state’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. “I think it’s clear that this fencing has been a huge success,” said Lori Erb, a MassWildlife biologist.

In 2007, 43 turtles were killed crossing the highway, including five Blanding’s turtles. Volunteer efforts dropped the death toll to a mere four traffic deaths. No Blanding’s turtle was killed by a car.

Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death among Blanding’s turtles, a species with a low survival rate among young turtles. The turtles travel to several wetlands between mid-March and October and cross dangerous highways in their travels.

Article URL:

Wild about Turtles!

Wild about Turtles

Thursday, Aug. 14, 2008 at 2 p.m. Children ages 3 and older will meet turtles, learn songs and make a clay turtle.

Naturalist Mary Doane will lead the program.

The Ashby Free Public Library, Main Street in Ashby. Library hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, 1 to 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday and closed Saturday during July and August. For more information or to sign up for a program, call (978) 386-5377.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Turtles at Wachusett Meadow

Sunday July 27, 2008

Turtles at Wachusett Meadow
Learn about turtles in the area, 1-3 p.m. Massachusetts Audubon Society adult members, $6; adult nonmembers, $8; child members, $3; child nonmembers, $4.

Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary

113 Goodnow Road
Princeton, MA 01541


Thursday, July 24, 2008

As endangered turtles wash ashore, scientists get a rare glimpse

As endangered turtles wash ashore, scientists get a rare glimpse

CUTTYHUNK ISLAND - Seagulls, strangely absent from this quaint summer getaway, feasted Monday along the rocky shoreline, and Carrie DeArmond and her daughter, Jordan, knew something was amiss.

"There were five or six and then another and another," DeArmond said. "And then I said, 'Oh, my God, would you look at that.' "

Lying in a patch of mud-colored seaweed was one of the ocean's largest, most mysterious reptiles: the leatherback turtle.

"But she smelled," Jordan said. And it was dead, the third of the rare and endangered species to wash ashore in Massachusetts in the past three weeks. Researchers typically see one or two each year.

"You could be a marine biologist for a long time and not come in contact with a leatherback," said Tony LaCasse, a spokesman for the New England Aquarium. "And we could go another couple years without seeing another."

Word of the 500-pound turtle spread quickly through the island community and among scientists eager to study the carcass for clues about the life of the leatherback. New England Aquarium researchers headed to the island yesterday morning to examine the turtle.

Distinguished by its unusual shell, a soft, vinyl-like skin over laying tiny interlocking bones, with seven ridges running front to back, the leatherback has roamed the world's oceans for about one hundred million years.

Adults can measure as long as 6 1/2 feet and weigh up to 2,000 pounds, and are thought to live for more than 100 years. They spend much of their life close to the ocean surface, feeding on jellyfish, but have been spotted more than 4,000 feet underwater, LaCasse said.

Boat propellers, fishing lines, and beach development contributed to the leatherback's rapid decline between the 1950s and 1980s, LaCasse said. Only an estimated 34,500 females existed worldwide in 1996, according to a report last year by the National Marine Fisheries Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service. The most recent population estimate for the North Atlantic alone ranges between 34,000 and 94,000 adult leatherbacks, the study said.

More than 40 sightings have been recorded in the waters of Nantucket Sound and Vineyard Sound this year, said Connie Merigo, director of the Marine Animal Rescue program at New England Aquarium. But some of those may be the same turtle, Merigo said, and "we don't have an exact number."

This year's first dead turtle was spotted July 3 on Popponesset Beach in Mashpee. The second came ashore July 13 on Ricketson's Point in Dartmouth, and the latest washed up here earlier this week. Researchers say the turtle was probably killed by a boat propeller, but they don't know for sure.

Residents struggled to prevent full-moon tides from reclaiming the leatherback, DeArmond said, and it took seven people tugging at the turtle to keep it from washing away Monday night.

The turtle was eventually tied to an anchor about 20 feet inland and restrained with a small, green net.

The aquarium team had about an hour to analyze the turtle yesterday and collect samples before high tide made work impossible. The leatherback was significantly decayed: Its left side was split open, seagulls had pecked away the eyes, and much of the skin on its back had peeled away.

"It's in pretty bad shape in terms of what we can learn," said Sheila Sinclaire, an aquarium biologist. "We can't even tell for sure whether it's male or female."

Tags on the turtle's front flipper indicate the leatherback originated from the Caribbean, near Trinidad. It appeared to be a young adult, Sinclaire said, but an electronic tag found implanted in its muscle may lead to more information.

Leatherbacks live throughout the world, but this one probably nested in the tropics and followed migrating jellyfish up the US Eastern Seaboard, LaCasse said.

Unlike other cold-blooded animals whose internal temperature changes with their surroundings, the leatherback can moderate its heat and swim into colder waters. And had it not died, it would have returned south, possibly to the same beach where it was born, researchers speculate.

Instead, it landed on the shores of Cuttyhunk, and residents flocked to watch the team of scientists collect samples.

"I've seen sea turtles, but nothing like this," said Ben Snow, 11, who was sitting in a line of friends as biologist Adam Kennedy examined a flipper.

"There was a sense of protectiveness on the island about it," said Kathleen Patton, a summer resident from Milton who questioned researchers about what may have killed the turtle. "We almost wanted to have a little service for it."

© Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Another dead sea turtle washes ashore

Another dead sea turtle washes ashore

Standard-Times correspondent
July 22, 2008 6:00 AM

A sea turtle washed up on Cuttyhunk on Monday, the third dead leatherback found on the southern coast of Massachusetts this month.

Wildlife experts headed out to the island after receiving a call in the early afternoon, hoping to learn more about the animal and how it died.

"It is a female, about 500 pounds, that was tagged from West Trinidad," said Bob Prescott, sanctuary director for the Massachusetts Audubon Society's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.

"We are trying to learn as much about it as we can."

The latest dead leatherback follows two of its kind on southern Massachusetts beaches.

Keith Kauppila found one washed up on the rocks in front of his house on Ricketson's Point in Dartmouth on the night of July 13. That came after a day of heavy surf produced by Hurricane Bertha.

Another leatherback was found on Popponesset Beach in Mashpee on July 3.

This is the season for sea turtles. From New Bedford to Provincetown, leatherbacks and loggerheads have been popping up with regularity in the warm waters of Buzzards Bay and the Nantucket Sound.

There could be more of them nearby this year because they were pushed up the coast by Hurricane Bertha. Or it could be people are just seeing them more, wildlife officials say.

"We get called out 15 or 20 times a year to free turtles that get tangled in fishing gear," said Brian Sharp, a rescue associate with the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies.

"We are getting a lot of calls about turtles this year," Mr. Prescott of the Audubon Society said.

"The water is warm this year. It might be that. We are also told there are a lot of jellyfish (which the turtles eat) in the area. It might be that. But it does appear there are more leatherbacks than usual this year."

In Rhode Island and Connecticut, biologists from the Mystic Aquarium respond to calls of turtles in distress. There have been three dead loggerheads in Rhode Island in July.

"We are getting a few more calls, but not significantly more," said Cindy Davis, a stranding assistant with the Mystic Aquarium. "We get calls from July to October."

There are five types of sea turtles that make their way into these waters in the summer, swimming up from the coast of South America and the Gulf of Mexico, following the Gulf Stream to Cape Cod and sometimes up to Maine.

Leatherbacks are the largest of the group. They weigh 500 to 1,000 pounds. Their backs, 5 feet across, look like the brown bottom of an overturned rowboat.

Loggerheads and Kemp's Ridleys are generally around 30 inches long and 100 pounds. Kemp's Ridleys are often found stranded on the beaches of southern Massachusetts. Green turtles and hawksbills are rare visitors.

None of those turtles is common. All are either listed as endangered or threatened species. And they are not numerous.

"We are getting more calls this year reporting them, but we don't know if that is because people are reporting more and we are getting more calls about the same turtles," Mr. Prescott said. "We believe we have 10 to 15 leatherbacks in Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound."

That number was reduced by one some time before July 13.

"I took my dogs out for a walk that night and one of them pointed on something," Mr. Kauppila said. "It was a huge turtle. It has a flipper span of 7 feet. The heavy seas brought it right to my front steps."

Mr. Kauppila got on the phone, eventually reaching the New England Aquarium in Boston, which dispatched a research team to dissect the turtle and collect samples.

"It had very significant propeller wounds to its back, but it is unknown if that happened before or after it died," said Tony LaCasse, spokesman for the New England Aquarium. The turtle was so badly decomposed it could not be determined if it died because it was hit by a boat or if it was run over after it died, he said.

Researchers still learn a lot by examining the turtle. Mr. Prescott said they look for tags — the female found Monday on Cuttyhunk was tagged by biologists in Trinidad when it was a baby, he said.

They also take tissue samples looking for parasites and chemical contaminants and try to examine the content of the animal's stomach to determine how it lived and why it died.

If a living turtle is seen swimming freely, that should be reported to 1-800-SEA-TURT, 1-800-732-8878. Biologists use that information to track migration patterns of the turtles, Mr. Sharp said.

Dead turtles should be reported to the New England Aquarium at (617) 973-5200. If you spot a turtle that is sick or injured or entangled in rope, litter or fishing gear, call the Provincetown Center at 1-800-900-3622.

"We ask people, if they can, to back off 100 or 200 feet and keep the turtle in sight until help arrives," said Mr. Sharp of the Provincetown Center. "We work with harbormasters and the Coast Guard. We can usually respond within an hour or so."

Turtles entangled in rope and fishing gear usually swim away before help arrives, Mr. Sharp said, so boaters are asked to keep the animals in sight so they can direct rescuers to the turtle.

No one should touch the turtles or try to help them, Mr. Sharp said.

"We want to make sure the animal is disentangled properly," he said. "We'll make sure all the lines are freed and we'll provide what veterinary care that we can. We try to maximize the chances the animal will survive."

And they like to see the turtles themselves, Mr. Sharp said.

"We try to get as much data as we can," he said. "Every time we go out, we learn something new."


New Devens arrival seeks to save older one

New Devens arrival seeks to save older one
By Kate Augusto
Globe Correspondent / July 20, 2008

In a green version of good corporate citizenship, employees of the yet-to-be opened Bristol-Myers Squibb plant in Devens are donating their time to protecting and restoring the habitat of the Blanding's turtle, a threatened species in the area.

The pharmaceutical company's efforts to preserve wildlife, which have included restoring a fence to keep the turtles safe from traffic, are somewhat uncommon in Massachusetts, according to the state Department of Fish and Game, which is partnering with Bristol-Myers Squibb on the project. However, some say the concept of businesses giving back to the community is well established.

"I don't think it's unique that companies are doing good things," said Robert Rio, a senior vice president at Associated Industries of Massachusetts, a Boston-based business lobbying group. "Andrew Carnegie built libraries and halls. It's kind of the same thing as that, but environmental stuff got bigger, so you're seeing the switchover."

Dan Noberini, Bristol-Myers Squibb's associate director of environment, health and safety at the Devens facility, said he set the partnership in motion before the company broke ground in 2007. Bristol-Myers Squibb is based in New York City, with locations internationally.

Noberini said he reached out to the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Fish and Game to see what the need was in the area, as part of a global Bristol-Myers Squibb commitment to help endangered and threatened species.

They decided to focus on the Blanding's turtle, a medium-sized, semiaquatic species distinguished by its bright yellow chin and throat, dark olive color with irregular yellow spots, and a highly domed and smooth carapace.

The species travels long distances during its active season, does not reproduce until late in life, and has low nest survival - all of which contribute to it being a threatened species. Its habitat in Devens was divided by a main road, Noberini said. This left the turtles susceptible to getting hit by traffic when they crossed the street, said Lori Erb, a turtle conservation biologist with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

"People told me about some Blanding's turtles that were being hit in upwards of eight per year, which is a lot, by cars on this one particular stretch of road," said Erb, who would not disclose the exact location because of poachers potentially targeting the creature.

The state Highway Department and the Department of Fish and Game then teamed up to build a chain-link fence to keep the turtles in, but holes in the bottoms still allowed them to escape. Patching these holes with chicken wire became the first task that about 15 Bristol-Myers Squibb employees, along with their partners and other volunteers, completed in early April, Noberini said.

The fence has since proven successful. Four turtles were hit by cars this year, none of which were Blanding's, compared with 43 turtles last year, five of which were Blanding's, Erb said.

Erb said the well-being of this species is important, as it's a good indicator of the well-being of the environment. "They're a top predator in the system. It's important to keep them in because you never know what sort of trickle-down effects might occur in the system if you take out a keystone species," she said. Blanding's turtles eat plants, such as coontail and duckweed, as well as animals, such as crayfish and earthworms.

Noberini said even though the Devens facility won't open until late 2009, Bristol-Myers Squibb employees have also engaged in other environmentally focused activities in the area, including a celebration on Earth Day to educate other company employees. In May, volunteers from the company also helped remove trees and brush to help create a better nesting habitat for the turtles.

In September, they will help restore nesting areas at a local hiking trail. Company officials also will meet twice a year with interested parties to make sure their resources go to the right place, Noberini said.

He said he believes these types of public-private partnerships may become more and more common.

"I think it's a wave of the future," he said. "A lot of people are getting into the environmental sustainability and green movement, and this is really an extension of that."

© Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company.

Archival Transfer 2008

Rare turtle washes up on Cape Cod

July 4, 2008

Cape Cod had an unusual visitor from the open ocean Wednesday night. A dead leatherback sea turtle weighing several hundred pounds washed ashore at Popponesset Beach in Mashpee, a spokesman for the New England Aquarium said.

Tony LaCasse said leatherbacks are an endangered species. This one was 6 to 7 feet across and had been dead for a long time.

The body was too decomposed for an necropsy to be performed, he said.

A biologist from the University of New Hampshire, which is working with the aquarium and the Massachusetts Audubon Society to research the turtles, took tissue samples and measured the body before it was removed from the beach, LaCasse said.

It is unusual for a leatherback to wash ashore on a Massachusetts beach, because they stay in the open water where they feed on jellyfish, he added.

Some leatherbacks have been found weighing as much as a ton.

Leatherbacks are unusual reptiles, LaCasse said, in that they can shunt blood to their outer extremities. This allows them to travel to colder temperatures than most turtles, as far as the Gulf of Maine and the Canadian sea provinces.


Chris Bogard with a Snapping Turtle

Turtles have a friend in Epping

Special to the Union Leader

June 24, 2008

Chris Bogard cooed to a 20-pound snapping turtle as she lifted the female onto a towel on her kitchen counter.

"She's a very pretty girl," Bogard said, "and she's healing very nicely."

Good thing, she added, because the snapper is "loaded" with eggs.

Bogard, a licensed turtle rehabilitator, isn't always so lucky. Sometimes she can't save the turtles people bring to her, in her private life and at her part-time job at a turtle hospital in Massachusetts. May to July is the prime time for turtles to be out and about -- and to be hit by cars.

Bogard has two words for the general public: "Slow down."

Article here.

Endangered Turtles Get Headstart at Museum

By Tammy Daniels - June 04, 2008
iBerkshires Staff

Northern red-bellied cooter
[Photo by MassWildlife]
PITTSFIELD — The nursery at Berkshire Museum was emptied on Friday as its nearly dozen occupants were handed over the state Fish and Wildlife Department.

Over an eight-month period, 10 turtles — known as northern red-bellied cooters — were kept warm and fed in the museum's aquarium section. It's all part of a "headstart" program to help the endangered species thrive in their small pocket of Massachusetts.

"We're really at the very northernmost point of their habitat," said aquarium manager Scott Jervas on Friday, after dropping the cooters off at MassWildlife in Westborough. "We're trying to push the habitat out a little bit."

And that habitat is small — about a dozen ponds in Plymouth County. When the headstart program began in 1984, there were an estimated 300 turtles. Now they number in the low thousands.

Over the past 20 years, some 2,000 of the young reptiles have been fostered and returned to the wild.

The museum joined the program in its early years, said Jervis, and usually brings about 10 of the creatures to the far western corner of the state to spend the winter months in water tub kept at a balmy 86 degrees.

The turtles breed late in the year and lay about 14 eggs; they don't reach reproductive maturity until at least 13 years. The cooters can live up to about 70 years.

Their limited habitat (caused in part by human encroachment) within about a dozen small ponds in Plymouth County and their slow movement leaves their young vulnerable to a host of predators. Their small size and high nutritional needs in their formative months also takes a toll on the species' ability to winter over.

MassWildlife and volunteers literally stake out the nests and scoop the baby turtles up when they hatch to prevent herons, bullfrogs and other predators from snatching them up. They're divvied out to between 15 and 20 zoos, schools, aquariums and volunteers across the state. This year, about 150 were fostered.

"They're constantly supplied with food — primarily romaine lettuce — and have to eat a lot to extract what little nutrition there is," said Jervas, who's been at the museum for 12 years.

What goes in eventually comes out — and a lot of it. The museum tried to care for 16 turtles one year, but that was just too messy, he said.

But all that food translates into rapid growth. "They're about the size of a quarter with a little head and legs when we get them," said Jervas. "They grow to over 2 pounds over the eight or nine months."

The turtles pack on 50 to 70 grams a week and have to be weighed and measured regularly and that falls to the students from Miss Hall's School who are part of an intern program at the museum. By the time the turtles are ready to be released in the spring, they've reached a size that keeps them safe from most predators

They're the second largest freshwater turtle in the state, with adults reaching more than a foot long and weighing up to 10 pounds.

The fostered turtles were returned to MassWildlife on Friday for their final weigh-in; they were released back into the wild on Monday.

Jervas brought his now big turtles to join their cousins and catch up with fellow fostering volunteers at the traditional cookout afterward.

"It's always good to see everyone and compare notes," he said.
Photo from the Berkshire Museum.

The Enterprise
Posted Jun 04, 2008 @ 02:10 AM

TURTLES GONE WILD: In case you missed it live on Monday morning on the shores of Great Quittacas Pond, the Ceremony of the Turtles will begin airing on Friday at 6 p.m. on BTV, Bridgewater’s public access station. The segment will include a Native American blessing of the turtles, which were given a head start by volunteers over the winter, to give them an edge over predators. The simple but moving ceremony, performed by Chief Alden “Windsong” Blake, tribal head of the Assonet tribe of Indians, was a blessing for the Native peoples’ most powerful and sacred animal, the turtle. On Monday, the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife released 137 red-belly cooters into Great Quittacas Pond in Middleboro, and the Comcast crew captured it on film.

Endangered turtles get a head start at life

By Scott O’connell

Mon Jun 02, 2008, 03:41 AM EDT


Thanks to the efforts of MassWildlife, a small population of endangered turtles in Plymouth County is getting a better chance at survival.

In a process called “head-starting,” the state agency division gathered about 150 northern red-bellied cooter hatchlings from the wild last fall and distributed them among 17 caretakers ranging from zoos to high schools.

The volunteer caretakers raised the turtles in aquariums over the winter in preparation for their release back into the wild.

At MassWildlife’s field headquarters in Westboro on Wednesday, this year’s head-starting graduates were weighed a final time in preparation for their release today into the Great Quittacas and Pocksha ponds in Middleboro, just a few miles from the turtles’ original habitat.

Tom French, assistant director of MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, said the aim of head-starting is to help the hatchlings grow to a size that won’t be gobbled up by other species.

Though adult northern red-bellied cooters are the second largest freshwater turtle species in Massachusetts, measuring up to a foot long, they’re only the size of a quarter when they hatch from their eggs.

“Everything can eat them,” French said. “They’re easy to find, easy to catch and they usually get eaten up.”

Now in its 24th year, MassWildlife’s head-starting project has replenished a turtle population that numbered only 300 across 12 ponds in Plymouth County in the beginning.

Were it not for MassWildlife’s intervention, French believes the species, which has more stable populations along the southern East Coast, could have gone extinct in Massachusetts.

“They were showing signs they were headed that way,” he said. “Basically, (head-starting) works.”

According to French, several of the turtles had already grown to several times the size of their counterparts in the wild, thanks to a winter of steady feeding.

“The results are actually quite remarkable,” he said. “Once you get it to this size, nothing can hit it.”

Why did the turtle cross the road?

ANDOVER — Make way for turtles.

That's what the Shawsheen River Watershed Association is trying to get across with new "turtle crossing" signs that will start going up this week around the area.

The group is concerned that cars could run over the small shelled creatures.

May and June are mating season for turtles, and research shows that turtles are most likely to be run over crossing roads and highways to lay their eggs in ideal sunny, sandy spots.

If you see a turtle in the road, the SWRA suggests picking it up and bringing it where it was headed. Don't return it where it was coming from, because it will only make its way into the road again.

Contact the SWRA at if you live on a road where turtles cross and would like a sign.

Archival Transfer 2007

Marine biologist Sheila Sinclair checks the vital signs of a cold-stunned turtle.

Rescued Cape turtles in good hands

Each year, New England Aquarium staff, interns and volunteers pick a theme to name the turtles that are brought in for treatment during the fall and early winter stranding season.

This year's theme is cartoon characters.

And so, the little 5-pound Kemp's ridley turtle that washed up at Linnell Landing in Brewster over Thanksgiving was dubbed Scooby-Doo.

But Scooby-Doo's condition when he was brought into the aquarium on Nov. 24 was anything but comical.

His heart rate was down to five beats per minute, far from the 20 to 22 beats per minute of the healthy turtles at the aquarium.

No one knows how many leatherbacks, loggerheads, greens and Kemp's ridleys hang out in Cape Cod Bay eating crabs, mollusks, jellyfish and fish. What is known is that the turtles that linger too late in the season, lulled by the warm bay waters, are often surprised by the sudden onslaught of winter.

Scooby's fate had been sealed the day after Thanksgiving, when a sudden cold front blew in from Canada, scouring Cape Cod Bay with 20 degree temperatures and 40 mph winds. Turtle metabolism matches the water or air temperature around the animals. When water temperatures drop below 50 degrees, Scooby's heart and respiratory system slowed to the point where he was almost paralyzed, floating on the surface to breathe, helplessly pushed to shore by the wind.

Three-foot seas battered the 9½-inch long turtle, threatening to force sand up his nostrils and down his throat. His oversized front flippers, more like oars than legs, were useless on land. His beak bled from a nickel-sized hole chafed by being pushed into the sand by waves. Small nicks on his carapace and a missing nail also hinted at the beating he endured.

Then, rescue.

The morning of Nov. 24, Scooby was picked up by Massachusetts Audubon turtle patrol volunteers and he joined 20 other cold-stunned sea turtles, mostly from the Cape, that were being treated at the aquarium last week.

First stop, the Intensive Care Unit and a towel-lined tray in an incubator that slowly brought his temperature back up from 47.6 degrees.

When their body temperatures drop below 50, turtles are not mobile enough to feed, and the skin of Scooby's plastron was shrunken back onto his bony ribs. Like most stranded turtles, he was dehydrated by wind and lack of food. An intravenous drip replaced his bodily fluids using a special mix determined by an analysis of a blood sample drawn on arrival and every day thereafter.

His eyes and throat were checked for damage and sand. Because stress and a lowered metabolic rate suppress the turtle's immune system, creating an opportunity for fungal and bacterial infections, antibiotics and anti-fungal medications are often added to the IV.

More than anything else, blood chemistry would mark Scooby's progress back to health. As he recovered, he would be allowed to swim in pools, shallow at first to prevent overexertion and drowning, and filled with freshwater to help him rehydrate. Then, he was allowed to move into progressively bigger pools and have longer swim times. When his temperature and mobility and metabolic rate allowed, Scooby was fed frozen herring, capelin, squid, and finally live crabs.

If all goes right, in the coming weeks Scooby could be flown out to another aquarium down South for more rehab or release. Or, he could remain at the New England Aquarium through the winter to be released into the warm Cape waters of early summer.

Doug Fraser can be reached at

Kemp's ridley turtle

  • Named after Key West fisherman Richard Kemp, who first submitted a specimen to scientists for identification in 1906.
    • The only sea turtle species that nests during the day.
    • Kemp's ridley is the most endangered sea turtle species in the world.
    • In 1978, only 200 nests were found along the Gulf of Mexico. Last year, 12,143 were documented on beaches in Mexico, most at Rancho Nuevo.
    • In 1947, more than 42,000 nests were filmed at Rancho Nuevo. Nearby villagers took more than 33,000 of those nests for the eggs.
    • Today, scientists and volunteers protect the nests by enclosing them in wire cages. The 1½- inch long hatchlings are then shepherded down to the water where they immediately head offshore into the Gulf of Mexico, are swept by currents around Florida and, by the Gulf Stream up into New England waters.

Massachusetts Audubon Society presents:

Turtle Atlas
Sponsored by Blue Hills Trailside Museum

Program Location: Blue Hills Trailside Museum
Instructors: Stephen Hutchinson, Education Coordinator; Tabitha Hobbs, Teacher Naturalist
Program Audience: Adult
Program Code: 178-BH07SU1
Fee: Adults $15.00 m/ $20.00 nm
Number of Classes: 1
Program Date(s) and Time(s):
Sunday, August 19, 2007 - 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Where are the turtles? Who's out there? Trailside Museum is joining naturalists throughout New England to figure it out! We'll start out at Trailside to learn to identify some of the species and key habitats that we hope to find and then we'll head into the hills to start our own count of the turtles in the Blue Hills. This program will include live turtles, data collection, conservation and impact discussion, and a moderately difficult hike.

Registration is required, unless otherwise noted.

For more information, contact:

Blue Hills Trailside Museum
1904 Canton Ave
Milton, MA, 02186
Phone: 617-333-0690
View Blue Hills Trailside Museum's home page.

A worker at the Center For Wildlife cleans a turtle at the center's rehab. in Cape Neddick, Maine.

Article published Aug 14, 2007
Rescued turtles now at York center

YORK, Maine — A wildlife center in Cape Neddick is being inundated with turtles from South Portland after an oil spill there badly damaged the turtles' habitat.

Last week, hundreds of gallons began to seep into South Portland's Calvary Pond — a location considered ideal for turtles.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection found out about the spill on Aug. 7 and by Thursday, was transporting the oil-slicked turtles to the Center for Wildlife, or CFW, in Cape Neddick, according to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

CFWis the only location in Southern Maine equipped to cope with such a cleanup and was put on alert, according to a release from the center.

But as turtles started arriving, they realized the situation was worse than expected.

"We're here from early in the morning until late in the evening, our whole time dedicated to caring for the animals," said Karen McElmurry, Managing Director of the CFW. "It leaves very little time for anything else. But it's all worth it when we can help so many animals that otherwise wouldn't have a chance."

Animals like the turtles.

Since then, staff have continued the long process of gently washing and rinsing each turtle individually, being careful to remove as much of the oil as possible, keeping them warm under heat lamps and monitoring their condition closely.

It is not unusual for the turtles to be cleaned several times in order to remove all of the oil, and to be given an injection of vitamins to counteract the oil they have consumed.
Atop the turtle crisis, July and August are the center's busiest months.

It is a time when they are literally overrun with injured animals, many of them babies animals. It is during this time that the center treats a sizeable portion of the 1,500 animals treated annually.

"It can be tough," admits Laura Dehler, director of development and outreach. "Not only is this our tightest financial time, but it's also when everyone starts looking for a light at the end of the tunnel. We're all so invested in taking care of the animals that it can take its toll, physically and emotionally."

Even so, the Center never turns away an animal in need. They provide a full range of treatments needed to rehabilitate birds, mammals and reptiles in order to maximize each animal's chance of returning to the wild and getting a second chance at life.

As a private nonprofit organization, they rely exclusively on donations from individuals and foundations, receiving no government funding.

According to Dehler, this the center is looking for any help — physical or financial — that donors are willing to give.

For more information, or to contact the center, call 207-361-1400 or visit

Acadia Universitys Peter Kydd holds a Blandings turtle, outfitted with a GPS transmitter package.

Tracking turtles, 007-style

July 12, 2007

EVE, SALLY and Lumpy aren’t exactly spies, but they’ll be sporting 007 technology when they take to the waters and wetlands of Kejimkujik National Park this summer.

The endangered Blanding’s turtles will sport tiny global positioning system transmitters as part of a study aimed at monitoring their movements around the park.

"It is kind of James Bond-ish," said Stephen Flemming, a species-at-risk scientist with Parks Canada.

"It records every time it’s above water 24 hours a day. So we get the exact pattern of where they’re travelling, how they’re using habitat — the whole thing."

The easygoing turtles, which number about 300 in Nova Scotia, can move a few kilometres over the course of a day.

"Other times, they’ll sit in the same pond for days at a time," Mr. Flemming said Wednesday.

The tracking gizmos also contain radio transmitters so scientists can find their turtles again.

"What’s amazing about this is that whole thing with the two transmitters and the batteries and the whole business weighs under 100 grams," Mr. Flemming said. "I’m pretty sure the CIA’s got something smaller, but in terms of what regular people can achieve, this is about as small as one could ever get."

The adult turtles, which are about the size of a dinner plate, carry the transmitters in a small plastic pouch fastened to the backs of their shells. "It doesn’t seem to bother them at all."

The tiny tracking devices were developed by Norm Green, a retired electronics and software specialist who lives in Hammonds Plains but spends a lot of his spare time volunteering at Keji with his wife, Suzanne.

"I worked on it all winter, probably from November until April," Mr. Green said.

The transmitters are about a third the size of a hockey puck.

"The batteries last an estimated 30 to 40 days," the 57-year-old said. "So if we’re doing a full season of tracking, we would have to find them on probably three occasions to change the batteries."

The GPS engine in the transmitters is about the size of a postage stamp. It receives information from satellites, which is then stored on a memory card.

"It goes to sleep for two hours, and then it turns on and gets a fix from the satellite, saves it to disc and then goes to sleep for another two hours," Mr. Green said. "That’s a method of extending the battery life."

The tiny turtle transmitters went through trials this spring and, after a little tweaking to prevent leaks, will go into full-scale use this summer.

"Technology was never in that zone before," Mr. Flemming said. "Literally, (we’ll discover) where and how they’re using habitat, under what weather conditions, under what time of year, how they deal with roads, how they deal with forest harvest cuts."

That information will allow scientists to regulate the forestry industry accordingly.

"The beauty of this is we’ll have the exact routes where we see how the turtles do move and hence how they’re mitigating that landscape. Which allows us then to work with forestry companies and say, ‘If you harvest in this way, the turtles will be good. Harvest in that way, not so good.’ And with endangered species, clearly that becomes something that has legal and enforceable pieces as well."

Scientists also want to know the routes the turtles take to get to their nesting spots.

"Because potentially we could do things on the landscape that could significantly limit their ability to go to breeding areas and, obviously, that has an impact on populations."

Population studies show that if Nova Scotia doesn’t take aggressive action, it will lose Blanding’s turtles fairly soon.

"In my estimation, I think (the population) will be non-recoverable in about 20 years," Mr. Flemming said. "So now’s the time."

In that vein, volunteers at Keji are also involved in protecting the Blanding’s turtle nests from predators. They’ve gone so far as to erect wire screens around traditional nesting sites to protect the eggs.

"The predation by raccoons is extremely high," Mr. Flemming said.

Volunteers are also "head-starting" turtles by raising them in captivity, then releasing them in the park.

"They’re pretty hard-wired. When you put them out in the environment, they just go, ‘I am a turtle. I am going to eat like this; I’m going to move like that.’ And our survivorship with head-started turtles to date has been very high."

© 2007 The Halifax Herald Limited

Malaysia to try to clone threatened turtles

July 12, 2007

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia is launching a $9 million project to try to clone some of its threatened leatherback turtles in a last-ditch bid to save them from extinction.

Malaysian agricultural and veterinary experts will join scientists in domestic and foreign universities on the five-year project, the New Straits Times reported on Thursday.

Junaidi Che Ayub, chief of Malaysia's fisheries department, said the cloning procedure would first be carried out on green turtles, which are abundant in Malaysia's northeastern state of Terengganu, where the leatherbacks nest.

"Once we have perfected the technique, we will apply it to leatherback turtles as they are a more complicated species in the turtle family," the paper quoted Junaidi as saying.

Rantau Abang in Terengganu used to be the nesting home of one of the seven largest leatherback populations in the world but its population has declined by more than 99 percent since the 1960s, global conservation group WWF says on its Malaysia Web site.

Leatherbacks, known to scientists as Dermochelys coriacea, get their name from their leathery carapace, and have distinctive long front flippers, the site said.

They face threats such as the loss of nesting and feeding places, excessive egg-collection, fatal entangling in fishing nets, pollution and coastal development, it added.

Cloning animals involves taking the nuclei of cells from adults and fusing them into other egg cells that are implanted into a surrogate mother.

One of the most famous cloned animals, Dolly the sheep, was born in 1996. She was later euthanized at the age of 8 because of a degenerative lung condition.


Endangered Status Sought for Imperiled Sea Turtles
Longline Fisheries and Global Warming Could Drive North Pacific Loggerhead Turtles Extinct

SAN FRANCISCO— Conservation groups filed a formal petition today to increase protections for critically imperiled loggerhead sea turtles that occur off the U.S. West Coast and are caught and killed in industrial fisheries based in California and Hawaii. The petition, filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network, seeks to have North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles listed as “endangered” under the federal Endangered Species Act and to have areas along the California coast and off Hawaii designated as “critical habitat” for the species.

Loggerhead sea turtles in the North Pacific nest in Japan, but cross the Pacific to feed in the rich waters off the coast of California and Baja California, Mexico. These ancient animals, which can live for a century or more, have swum the Earth’s oceans since the days of dinosaurs. However, in the past 25 years populations have declined by over 80 percent, with fewer than 1,000 females returning to their natal beaches to nest each year.

The primary threat to loggerhead sea turtles is pelagic longline fishing. Longline fishing vessels seeking swordfish and tuna each deploy several thousand baited hooks on fishing lines that can extend for more than 60 miles. Over a billion longline hooks are set in the world’s oceans each year, catching and killing not just swordfish and tuna but thousands of sea turtles, seabirds, marine mammals and sharks.

“Sea turtles survived the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs, but are unlikely to survive longline fishing,” said Miyoko Sakashita, ocean program attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. “This barbaric fishing gear should be banned from our nation’s and international waters.”

More than 1,000 scientists and 300 organizations from 100-plus countries have called upon the United Nations for a moratorium on pelagic longline fishing in the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, rather than head this call, the United States is gearing up to expand such fisheries. Following a successful lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network, in 2004 longline fishing for swordfish was prohibited along the West Coast. However, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the federal agency charged with managing fisheries as well as sea turtles, has proposed to issue a permit that would allow an “experimental” longline fishery for swordfish off the California and Oregon coasts this fall. The permit is the first step toward establishing a full-scale industrial longline fishery off the West Coast. A similar fishery is operated out of Hawaii and is responsible for the deaths of numerous whales in addition to sea turtles.

“Rather than opening the waters off California and Oregon to deadly industrial fishing fleets, we should be protecting these areas as critical habitat for loggerhead sea turtles and other imperiled wildlife,” said Todd Steiner, executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network.

North Pacific loggerheads are geographically isolated and genetically distinct from loggerheads that occur in the Atlantic, Indian and South Pacific Oceans. Loggerhead sea turtles are currently listed as “threatened” throughout their range under the Endangered Species Act. Separate listing of the more imperiled North Pacific loggerheads would trigger additional protections under U.S. law, including the designation of critical habitat.

More information is available from Turtle Island Restoration Network at and from the Center for Biological Diversity at

The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 35,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Turtle Island Restoration network is a California-based international marine conservation organization that works to protect sea turtles and other marine species in the United States and in countries around the world.

UMass biologist Mike Jones uses duct tape to secure a GPS beacon to the back of a 40-pound Snapper

Turtles go high-tech to protect species
DEERFIELD, Mass. — From the way he thrashed his head, kicked and tried to make a getaway, M16 made it clear he didn't like human contact. But the researchers wrangling with him could be helping to save his species.

Despite his best efforts to escape the clutches of two scientists from the University of Massachusetts and get back to the swamp he was just lifted from, the 40-pound snapping turtle finally gave up and let Mike Jones and Matt Garber do their jobs.

Using a combination of orthodontic cement and duct tape, the students attached a postcard-sized waterproof computer to the turtle's shell. After christening the 16th male turtle he found in the area as "M16," Jones scribbled some information about the turtle's shell markings into a field book and set the snapper free.

Knowing where M16 goes could help scientists protect him.

In an experiment taking place along the Deerfield River in western Massachusetts, two otherwise unrelated groups of researchers are working together: computer engineers like Garber who are testing a new wireless communication network, and biologists like Jones who are tracking snapping turtles — a species they worry may be headed for decline as land development shrinks their habitat.

The idea behind the technology is to create a network of constantly moving devices that record and store information, transmit data from one device to another, then relay all the saved information to a central location while running on self-charging batteries.

"A lot of the existing technology works great as long as you're not moving around and you have stable networks and people who could recharge batteries," said Jacob Sorber, a doctoral candidate in computer science who designed the network he calls TurtleNet, a project funded by grants from the National Science Foundation.

The solar-powered computers are light enough so they don't weigh the turtles down, and they don't interrupt their mating habits, Jones said.

Stuck to the shells of about 15 turtles found in spots near the Deerfield swamp, the gadgets will take periodic readings of the reptiles' location and body temperature.

When one computer-carrying snapper gets within a tenth-of-a-mile of another, the machines swap information.

The series of short-distance transmissions allows for long battery life in each computer, and the solar panels attached to the units are expected to constantly keep the batteries charged. Without a relay system, a longer transmission would require a larger battery that would drain too quickly or be too big for a turtle to carry.

The turtle-to-turtle relay ends when one of the snappers passes near a single base station that receives all the accumulated information. While Jones thinks the snappers may roam up to 10 miles from the Deerfield swamp they know as home, he says it's in their nature to return to the bog where the base station is.

Working like a cellphone sending a text message, the base station zaps the data to the UMass-Amherst campus about 15 miles away, where biologists are charting each turtle's whereabouts.

"We're trying to get a better idea of their range, the routes they take and where they hibernate," said Jones, who is working on a doctoral degree in biology. "If you have that information for a good number of turtles, you can predict what their patterns will be for the next 50 years or so."

Booming land development and an increase in natural predators has landed seven of Massachusetts' 10 freshwater turtle species on the state's endangered species list. Snappers aren't there yet, but Jones and other biologists are concerned they're on their way.

"People think they're a nuisance, they're aggressive and they're smelly," he said. "And you see a lot of dead snappers on the side of the road. But most of the turtles that people are running over are mothers trying to get somewhere to nest."

By mapping where and how the snappers move, they're trying to generate enough information that could be used to help protect turtle habitats.

Until now, tracking turtles has been a difficult — and messy — business.

Jones has been following turtles around New England by attaching radio receivers to their shells. When he goes looking for them, he has to carry a radio receiver while wading through swamps and bushwhacking through woods hoping to pick up a signal. And the radio batteries are good for only about two years.

If TurtleNet — which was launched in June — works, he'll be able to spend less time hunting for his subjects. The computers should let him know where the turtles are at any time.

Researchers from Princeton University have been using a similar technology during the past five years to track zebras in Kenya. Unlike TurtleNet, the Princeton project uses computers with larger batteries that could be more easily carried on collars attached to the strong, fast-moving zebras.

Still, the end result is the same, and the Princeton scientists say their studies have shed new light on the animals' migratory patterns.

"These are early examples of using computer engineering to answer questions about biology," said Margaret Martonosi, a professor of electrical engineering at Princeton. "If you know where these animals are going and how they're moving, you could take steps to better preserve the land and their habitat."

While the turtles may not be covering as much ground as the zebras, their interaction with people is increasing. And that puts them in more peril.

"You see a lot of them up the road this time of year," said Les Jackson, who works on a farm adjacent to the swamp where M16 was found.

Early summer is when turtles nest, and finding a place to lay their eggs often means crossing busy roads. The snappers Jackson was referring to were the ones he's seen crushed by cars.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Beal's four-eyed turtle

Rare turtle hatches at Tenn. Aquarium

Sun Jun 17, 4:14 AM ET

A rare turtle has hatched at the Tennessee Aquarium, one of only three places in the United States that display the endangered species, aquarium officials announced.

A Beal's four-eyed turtle, named for two white spots on the back of its head that look like a pair of eyes, hatched from a clutch of three eggs, officials said Friday.

"This little turtle in Chattanooga may represent the first successful reproduction of Sacalia bealei in a North American institution," aquarium herpetologist Enrico Walder said.

The turtle weighed 0.21 ounces and was 1.52 inches long when it hatched June 9.

There are only 18 known Beal's four-eyed turtles in the United States and Europe. The Dallas Zoo and the Charles Paddock Zoo in Atascadero, Calif., also have the turtles, officials at the Chattanooga aquarium said.

The turtles were once common in southern China, and researchers believe their numbers will not grow because of the species' low reproductive rate.

"As with many Asian species, the Beal's four-eyed turtle has been over collected for use in the Chinese food and traditional medicine trade," Walder said.

A male Beal's four-eyed turtle is on display at the aquarium, but the baby will not be exhibited until it is older.


On the Net:

Tennessee Aquarium:

Giant Tortoises

Giant tortoises are seen on the Galapagos islands in this April 29, 2007 file photo. The United Nations said Ecuador should step up efforts to protect the Galapagos, 625 miles (1,000 km) off Ecuador's coast, from growing tourism and immigration. The U.N. will decide in July if the Pacific archipelago is officially "in danger".

Turtle lovers tackle road kill problem
By Keith O'Brien, Globe Staff. May 20, 2007

HAMILTON -- Here's the thing about turtles: They're slow. Also, they're not afraid of cars. And so, when your two-ton sport utility vehicle , or even your eco-friendly hybrid, comes bearing down on a turtle, it's clear which side will prevail.

Hint: It's not the reptile.

"They're just squashed," said Mark Grgurovic , a wildlife biologist studying turtles for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. "Most of them don't make it, they're just so banged-up."

Turtles are in particular danger this time of year. It's mating season. Love -- or at least the instinct to reproduce -- is in the air. And that means the shelled creatures are crossing rural and suburban roads, like Bridge Street in Hamilton on the North Shore, to find mates and, soon, build nests.

Inevitably, some won't make it and specialists are now working to make future mating seasons safer for the turtles. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is building "wildlife crossings" for spotted turtles along the 18-mile Greenbush Line, under construction between Braintree and Scituate. At Framingham State College, students are using road kill data from the last 25 years to map the places where turtles are most likely to get run over . And at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst , assistant professor Paul Sievert is building passageways of different sizes and styles. His goal: create a tunnel that turtles will like and use when they need to cross the road.

"They do a lot of things both as herbivores and carnivores," said Sievert. "They're eating fish in ponds, salamanders, salamander eggs, frogs, frog eggs. Snapping turtles can eat ducklings. They're playing an important role in the food chain. And if you remove that link, it's hard to predict whether things will go awry or not."

Turtles have been around for millions of years and until recently had been doing fine. Once full-grown, they've historically been pretty much indestructible. When threatened, they disappear into their shells. And, as such, they survive. Turtles have been known to live up to 100 years.

But as rural areas have become more suburban, turtles are increasingly becoming targets, said Lori Erb , a turtle conservation biologist for MassWildlife. With more development comes more roads, she said. And with more roads, more turtle casualties.

Since 2001, Erb said, 875 turtles have been found -- dead or alive -- on Massachusetts roads and countless more have died without being documented. It's especially a problem in eastern Massachusetts, Erb said, where a growing population increases the chances that a turtle will be squashed while trying to get to a neighboring pond or wetland.

"Most mating is opportunistic," Erb said. "So they have, perhaps, a typical area that they'll aggregate in. But it's more or less whoever they happen to bump into."

Once a turtle has mated, the female then wanders off in search of warm soil or an open space, creating yet another opportunity to stare down a Ford Explorer. And here's where evolution fails them.

"They have to go across land, over the road," said Virginia Cookson , a member of the Hamilton Conservation Commission. "And they get smushed."

This month, Cookson said, she has found the remnants of three turtles on Bridge Street, near the Miles River , in Hamilton. The handmade "Turtle X-ing" sign that someone recently placed on a telephone pole there apparently isn't helping.

But signs have helped elsewhere. In Norfolk, where there are four official turtle crossing signs, Ellen Friedman , a local turtle lover, said she gets far fewer calls to collect injured turtles than she once did. In the last three summers, she said, she's received one call, compared to the five or six she once received every season.

"We get a lot of laughs when people come through town," Friedman said. "But, truly, people are more aware of it."

The turtles will probably need all the help they can get. It has been estimated that they travel about 33 feet per minute. That means that a turtle would need roughly a minute to cross a two-lane road, Sievert said .

The problem, Sievert conceded, is that it would certainly take longer, what with cars passing and turtles pausing or retreating into their shells. Those who find a turtle in the road should ferry it, when possible, in the direction it was going.

They may not fear traffic, but turtles know where they're headed, and they'll do what it takes to get there. "If that means crossing a double-lane highway , they'll cross it," Grgurovic said.

The squished don't typically live and learn. But there are a few lucky ones.

"Hi, sweetie," Maureen Murray whispered to an injured painted turtle this week as she held him inside the wildlife clinic at the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in North Grafton.

The painted turtle is one of several that people have brought to the clinic this spring.

"They're really amazing creatures, one of the oldest creatures on the planet," Murray said. "It's really quite heartbreaking that they've been around for so long and the thing that's killing them -- or at least one of the things -- is cars."