Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Turtles get right-of-way on Weymouth base

By Ed Baker
Wicked Local Weymouth

Weymouth —
Eastern Box Turtles will get their own pathway at the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station when the first phase of a two-lane parkway is scheduled for completion in June, 2012.

During separate public hearings on Sept. 27, the South Shore Tri-Town Corp. board of directors approved a Notice of Intent and a Determination of Applicability for Vanasse Hangen Brustlin (VHB) to complete some land clearing near a wetlands at the base for construction of the East-West Parkway.

VHB administrative assistant Lisa Stanley said that the box turtles nest in an area north of a runway and west of the Old Swamp River that flows through a portion of the base.

“These two areas will be cleared of trees and the litter there will be raked up,” Stanley told the board. “The objective is to turn these areas into turtle nesting habitats.”

The Eastern Box Turtle is a small yellow-dotted amphibian that is protected under the state’s natural heritage and endangered species program.

Eastern Box Turtles are found along streams, bogs, marshes, and moist or dry woodlands in Massachusetts.

“The land will be cleared, and our plan is to ship the trees away to be chipped,” Stanley said. “The cleared area will be left for the turtles to access, and it will be accessible to them by next spring.”

She said that there are about 50 box turtles that nest on the base.

“They are on areas that are owned by LNR (Property Corp.) and are not in developed areas,” Stanley said. “The turtles live in conservation areas.”

She said that the parkway would have two wire-meshed fences to keep the turtles off the parkway after it is built.

A pathway under the road would provide the turtles access to their habitats.

Stanley said that roadway contractors would be required to keep the turtles off the parkway and an access road to the site while the two-lane road is being built.

“We want to clear an existing dirt road to be able to use to get the construction equipment in,” she said. “There will be a small fence to keep the turtles off the access road, and we will use jersey barriers to keep trucks from going into the wetlands.”

VHB’s plan includes placing an orange silt fence around the wetlands for truck drivers to avoid disturbing the restricted area.

“We will use hay stacks near the wetlands to protect them (the turtles),” Stanley said.

The construction of the parkway will begin with a design plan that is one quarter complete.

Stanley said that the first phase of the road would begin 300 feet west of the Old Swamp River and continue to Weymouth Street in Rockland.

“It is at a 25 percent design stage,” she said.

Hours after the News went to press on Sept. 28, the Rockland conservation commission was scheduled to review VHB’s request for a master permit to be issued for the portion of the parkway that extends through Rockland.

“We will come back to you for your approval once we get to a 75 percent design phase,” Stanley told the board. “We will submit the 75 percent design stage plan to you.”

Weymouth resident Tricia Pries said she appreciates the attempts to protect the turtles, but is uneasy about work being done on a parkway with only a 25 percent design phase completed.

“What if it gets halted by the Rockland conservation commission?” she said.

Steve Ivas, president of Ivas Environmental of Norwell, said he does not believe that Rockland officials would reject a permit request to construct the roadway.

“If a roadblock occurs, we will deal with that,” said Jeffrey Wall, chairman of the board.

Construction of the parkway is expected to get underway within a few weeks.

The road with two passing lanes in each direction will eventually give drivers access to the base from Route 18 near Trotter Road to Hingham Street near Reservoir Park Drive.

Gov. Deval Patrick and local officials broke ground for the roadway in July.

Patrick has committed $42.6 million in state aid to construct the road in a 30-year bond bill that lawmakers approved last year.

The funding includes $8 million in previous federal aid and $15 million in stimulus funding.

The state Department of Transportation gave the parkway construction a boost when it closed on a $30 million bond on June 30.

The bond will provide a major source of funding for the construction of the parkway.

Source: Wicked Local

Copyright 2010 Weymouth News. Some rights reserved

Friday, September 17, 2010

Turtles found in Wareham Community Garden hatching and healthy

By Ruth Thompson
GateHouse News Service
Posted Sep 16, 2010

The recent release of 18 painted turtle hatchlings into the wild was cause for celebration.

About 20 people were present at the Wareham Community Garden to witness the return of the thumb-size turtles to their natural habitat.

According to Don “the turtle guy” Lewis, painted turtles are medium-size and are found in lakes, ponds, wetlands and bogs throughout the state. He said painted turtles are on the protected status list in Massachusetts or elsewhere.

Lewis serves as the executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Districts. His research and rescue exploits have been featured on National Geographic TV, and his work has been profiled in books on global animal rescue, endangered wildlife management and habitat preservation. His original stories and wildlife photography have been published around the globe.

Lewis and Sue Wieber Nourse document the nature of coastal Massachusetts on their website, TurtleJournal.com, and they share real-time adventures directly from the wild on Twitter.

In addition to the 18 painted turtle hatchlings that were released, Lewis also brought along a pair of Eastern box turtle hatchlings and two diamondback terrapin hatchlings to greet the community.

The Eastern box turtle hatchlings had been rescued from a nest along Route 6. The diamondback terrapins were protected on a beach in a nearby estuary.

Eastern box turtles are not aquatic and live in woodlands, fields and backyards throughout the Wareham community. They are protected in Massachusetts as a species of special concern.

Diamondback terrapins are a coastal marine turtle and can be found in salt and brackish water, such as salt marshes. They are protected in Massachusetts and are listed as threatened.

“The objective was to demonstrate for the community some of the wonderful turtle species that share the Wareham community with us,” Lewis said.

Lewis said the first 11 painted turtles came from three nests that were laid in the end of May in the garden beds of the Wareham Community Garden.

“The first was discovered by Dick Wheeler when he saw the female painted turtle and discovered the nest,” Lewis said.

Lewis said Wheeler called him and Wieber Nourse.

“When Sue went to the Wareham Community Gardens to protect this nest, she and Dick watched another female painted turtle dig a nest and deposit her eggs,” he said. “A third nest was found by another gardener in her garden patch.”

Lewis said the painted turtles have been nesting in the spot at the Wareham Community Gardens for generations.

“Now that humans are working their nesting site as a community garden, it makes good sense for them to exhibit good stewardship to protect future generations of turtles for future generations of humans to enjoy.”

The first three nests were laid and protected in late May. They hatched Aug. 17 after 83 days of incubation, yielding 11 perfect babies.

Lewis said while working on a new garden, Wheeler found two more sets of eggs buried in the soil.

“He called Sue and me,” Lewis said. “We relocated the eggs June 30 to our ‘turtle sanctuary’ in our backyard. Because the eggs were disturbed at an unknown period of their development, we had little expectation but always hope. From these eggs, seven perfect babies emerged Sept. 3 with the arrival of Hurricane Earl.”

Lewis said turtles hatch “fully prepared to deal with the world.”

“Their first act of survival is to tunnel to the surface from the nest and to scramble as quickly as possible into thick vegetation and wetlands for cover and concealment,” he said. “They are tiny, around an inch long and weighing a quarter of an ounce. Their shells are still crunchable like potato chips, and they are vulnerable to a host of critters.”

By the time the hatchlings are about 3 years old and the size of a hockey puck, they have an excellent chance of surviving for the long haul.

Lewis said depending on the species, turtles can live a “very, very long time.”

By protecting nests with a cage (predator excluder), and by helping them get into the thick vegetation near the wetlands when they hatch, humans are providing an enormous boost to the survival of these babies and to the survival of the species.

“Once in the wild, these babies will largely live off the nutrient package (yolk sac) that momma has provided for the fall,” he said. “They will burrow under vegetation or slip into the thick vegetation of the wetlands and burrow into the mud and muck for the winter. They will snooze their winter in the Great White North, protected by a covering, a warming ooze. In the springtime, when temperatures rise once again, they will emerge hungry and raring to go.”

Lewis said turtles have adapted to every conceivable, and some pretty inconceivable, habitat on earth and can be found on the six continents in landscapes and seascapes from the ocean depths to the high desert.

“Turtles serve our world as a metaphor for its environmental health,” he said. “They are the earth's ecological barometers. As turtle species decline, the quality of our planet declines proportionately. As turtle species recover, so does our precious blue world.”

Lewis said if someone comes across a hatchling, if it appears healthy, place it under vegetation in a safe area where it was found. For adult turtles, place the turtle in a safe place in the direction it was heading.

Because different species requires different habitats, people are encouraged to call the hotline.

“If you have any doubt our question about what to do, call the 24/7 turtle hotline at 508-274-5108,” he said.

Source: Wicked Local
Copyright 2010 Wicked Local Wareham. Some rights reserved

Taunton's Bristol County Agricultural High School gives 'threatened' turtles a head start in life

By Charles Winokoor
Taunton Daily Gazette Staff Writer
Posted Sep 16, 2010

Taunton —

If Blanding’s turtles could talk, they would probably say thank you to participating students in the Natural Resources Management program at Bristol County Agricultural High School.

For the past three years, sophomore students involved in the NRM program have monitored and nurtured newly hatched Blanding’s turtles during the fall and winter months, eventually releasing them into the wild the following spring.

The goal of the program is to increase the Blanding’s turtle’s chances of achieving a population comeback in the Bay State.

Massachusetts is one of six states that designate the the Blanding’s turtle as a “threatened” species. Four other states, as well as Ontario and Nova Scotia, list it as “endangered.”

The NRM program is a vital component of re-establishing the Blanding’s species in the commonwealth, said Kurt Buhlmann, a conservation ecologist at the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory.

Buhlmann came to Bristol Aggie this week, bearing the gift of nearly 50 baby, or hatchling, Blanding’s turtles.

The hatchlings will be carefully “head-started” within the temperature-controlled confines of one of the school’s six greenhouses, where they will be kept safe from birds, chipmunks and other natural predators.

The special head-start treatment ensures that the semi-aquatic turtles will have the chance to grow quicker and larger than their counterparts in the wild, thus making them far less vulnerable to becoming another animal’s meal, Buhlmann said.

The joint effort of the University of Georgia’s ecology unit and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dates back to 2007, when 28 hatchlings were released at the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge.

But this is only the second year Bristol County Agricultural High School has participated by offering the use of its greenhouse, which utilizes ultra-violet lamps. They also allow the turtles to eat as much as they want, whenever they want.

The refuge, with its wetlands, fields and forest, consists of 2,230 acres,within sections of Sudbury, Maynard, Hudson and Stow.

The Assabet refuge was formerly part the U.S. Army’s former Fort Devens Sudbury Training Annex; ownership was transferred to the Fish and Wildlife Service in 2000.

“There aren’t many areas in the state like that,” said Brian Butler, president of Oxbow Associates, an Acton-based wetlands and wildlife consulting company hired to help develop the plan to re-populate the Blanding’s turtle.

Butler, who was also on hand at Bristol Aggie, said the hatchlings delivered this week were from eggs previously laid in the marshy ground of Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge, located near Ayer and Shirley.

Of the total number of eggs retrieved and examined, half were brought to the high school to be incubated while the other 50 or so were put back in the ground in protective wire-mesh cages.

Each baby turtle has identifying notch markings engraved on its shell, he said.

Butler said his company’s name came about, in part, as a result of the thesis he wrote 20 years ago at the Oxbow Wildlife Refuge.

He said his contract with the fish and wildlife service is not especially lucrative, but he added that he wasn’t complaining either.

“This project is really interesting and fun,” Butler said.

NRM students this past May traveled to Sudbury where they went on the river in canoes and released approximately 50 healthy head-started Blanding’s turtles.

The goal for May 2011 is to release 75, Butler said.

The program model requires that at least 50 turtles be released every year for a period of 10 years.

Buhlmann said the head-start capability provided by the school is invaluable, in part because it can take 15 to 20 years for a Blanding’s turtle to reach sexual maturity.

Some of the head-started turtles literally carry a load: About a dozen of those released last spring had radio transmitters attached to their shells.

Buhlmann said that the two-stage micro-transmitters, which run on lithium batteries and are epoxied to the shells, transmit valuable information that allows researchers to track the turtles’ movements and whereabouts.

“It tells us if they’re staying in the habitat and indicates if the habitat is suitable,” Buhlmann said.

It also, he said, “tells us where to release them next year.”

Each transmitter weighs just three and a half grams with the epoxy accounting for an additional gram, which equals roughly five percent of the turtle’s weight, Buhlmann said.

Zach Cava, a 23-year-old Ithica College biology graduate who is doing a herpetology internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said that he tries to track the movement of the turtles three times a week.

Sixteen-year-old Katie Barboza was one of 18 NRM sophomores last year who kept track of the turtles’ progress.

“It’s a great program to start with,” in an environmental field of study, Barboza said.

Barbara Mello, public relations representative for the school’s admissions office, said NRM students have made unexpected discoveries during the course of their head-start growth studies — one of which is the benefit of natural sunlight versus UV rays.

Mello also said that one student concocted a meal the turtles found irresistible, consisting of unflavored Jello, pieces of beef heart and shrimp.

Mello said that she and others grow attached to the turtles as they become full-grown.

“I have mixed emotions when they’re released,” she said.

Copyright 2010 The Taunton Gazette. Some rights reserved

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Box Turtles at Wellfleet Bay

Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

2-4 p.m. Saturday, September 11, 2010

Outdoor program focusing on eastern box turtle, a Species of Special Concern in Massachusetts. Join sanctuary director Bob Prescott for a short introductory lecture followed by a field walk in search of box turtles. Information on their natural history, biology, and research provided.

$10. Reservations required. 508-349-2615.

291 Route 6, South Wellfleet, Massachusetts

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Boaters urged to avoid sea turtles

PROVINCETOWN — Marine wildlife officials yesterday reminded boaters that they share the water with large sea turtles that can be hard to spot.

Leatherback turtles are a federally listed endangered species. They can grow to seven-feet long and weigh as much as 2,000 pounds. They are migratory and populate Cape and Islands waters at this time of year eating jellyfish and spending time at the surface.

Several have already been hit, some fatally, by vessels in local waters this year. Boaters can avoid sea turtle collisions by proceeding with caution and posting lookouts watching for turtles in areas of relatively high concentration such as Buzzards Bay, Nantucket Sound and Cape Cod Bay.

A second, more frequent danger for sea turtles is entanglement in fishing, mooring and other vertical lines. Brian Sharpe, who leads the state's turtle disentanglement team at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, said his team has freed 13 leatherbacks from lines this summer. Ten were still alive, he said.

With a 6½-foot wingspan, one wrong turn near a line can mean entanglement and possible death for these giants of the sea.

Sharpe said mariners should not try to free turtles because they are powerful animals that could injure a would-be rescuer. Plus, the Provincetown-based rescue team doesn't want a partially freed animal to swim off with entangled gear, Sharpe said. Trained responders can properly free entangled sea turtles, collect essential data, and tag turtles for scientific research, he said.

Marine wildlife officials ask boaters who spot an entangled turtle to call the Massachusetts Sea Turtle Disentanglement Hotline at 800-900-3622. Boaters can also call the NOAA Fisheries Hotline at 866-755-NOAA or hail the Coast Guard on Channel 16. If possible, boaters should remain at a safe distance and wait for a trained biologist to arrive.

Source: Cape Cod Times

Copyright © Cape Cod Media Group, a division of Ottaway Newspapers, Inc. All Rights Reserved.