Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Turtles on the move, burying eggs in dry ground

GateHouse News Service
Posted Jun 10, 2009 @ 10:45 PM

Raynham —
June is turtle time in these parts.

Regardless of all obstacles in their path, snapping, painted, red-bellied and all other species of turtles are leaving their watery homes for higher ground to bury their eggs.

“It goes on everywhere and as long as people give them a good wide berth they won’t bother anyone,” said biologist Dick Turner of the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Last week, two slow-moving female snapping turtles from the Forge River were seen crawling across the busy parking lot outside Town Hall in search of a dry home to incubate their eggs.

But it’s a journey fraught with danger.

“With alarming frequency these ancient reptiles are cut off from traditional nesting areas by an ever-increasing network of roads, leaving them vulnerable to high rates of road kill,” explained Mass Wildlife Director Wayne MacCallum in a press release.

The report said humans can help the annual reptile migration by carefully moving turtles out of harms way. The sometimes feisty snapping turtles can be held by the tail while placing one hand on its underside to support the animal’s weight. Other turtles can be safely grasped by the sides of the shell.

Officials stressed, however, the turtles should be aimed in their intended direction and never brought to another location or pond.

But even safe passage does not ensure that a turtle and her eggs will survive. Skunks and raccoons feast on the shallow nests, which contain between 30 to 40 eggs.

Turtle biologist Lori Herb said the nests are most vulnerable to invasion during the first two weeks of being deposited by their mother.

She said a temporary fence can be used to protect the nests, but they must permit sunlight and be removed well before the hatchlings are expected to start their journey to lowland areas. “The main thing is trying to leave them alone,” Erb said.

Because of an abundance of wetlands, Southeastern Massachusetts is home to nearly every species of turtle found in the state.

But in suburban communities like Raynham, she said, development in habitat areas has put the hatchling mortality rate at almost 100 percent.

Taunton Gazette photo by TIM FAULKNER
Shown here is one of two female snapping turtles from the Forge River digging for a spot to bury their eggs behind Raynham Town Hall last week. State wildlife officials said most turtles return to the same location each year to lay their eggs.


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