Friday, December 30, 2011

Unusual turtle stranding season putting aquatic care center to the test

December 30, 2011

QUINCY — Juggernaut, a 55-pound loggerhead turtle, poked his head out of the water in the pool at the New England Aquarium Animal Care Center. He stretched his neck and snapped a piece of filleted herring from a pair of forceps.

Large white scars, where skin had been peeled back to bone, covered most of his head. Similar wounds marred portions of his shell and his large front flippers. Sometime in early December his metabolism ground to a halt, shut down by cold water temperatures. He floated at the mercy of the wind until washing ashore on a bayside Orleans beach on Dec. 11.

Aquarium staff theorized that Juggernaut's wounds may have come from being bashed around on rocks or other underwater obstructions as he neared shore. Still, he was luckier than most of the turtles who lingered too long in Cape Cod Bay waters this year. Massachusetts Audubon Society figures show that 35 to 40 percent of turtles recovered this year were alive, compared with 45 to 50 percent last year. And fewer were recovered. A total of 129 turtles came in for treatment at the center last year, with only about 40 this year.

Most turtle strandings happen on the Cape and a high percentage of those turtles are Kemp's Ridley, the most endangered sea turtle in the world. Over the past 20 years, the aquarium has rehabilitated and released more than 800 sea turtles. Five of the seven sea turtle species are listed as endangered by the U.S. The five all are occasional or regular visitors to Cape waters.

Aquarium spokesman Tony LaCasse said one theory posits that Kemp's Ridley, the smallest of the sea turtle species, may get caught in localized currents along the Outer Cape in the summer and are swept into Cape Cod Bay.

With land on virtually three sides of the bay, some may find it impossible to find their way back out, LaCasse said.

Unseasonably warm temperatures this year delayed the onset of turtle-stranding season, which usually begins after Halloween and reaches its peak at Thanksgiving. As of early December, only eight turtles had arrived at the care center, as opposed to 108 at the same time last year.

"They've found a lot of long-dead turtles. (Some) are decomposed, and that is unusual," La-Casse said.

It might seem counterintuitive, but an early cold snap that immobilizes turtles, forcing them to the surface, combined with steady winds pushing them shoreward is probably the best thing that could happen to tropical turtles who linger too long in Cape Cod Bay.

"They still have body fat, and no pathogens," LaCasse said.

With record warm weather continuing through most of the fall and into the first week of winter, bay waters remained warm enough that many turtles tried to wait out the cold, hunkered down on the bottom. They burned through their reserves of fat and became susceptible to diseases.

While many of the 34 turtles being treated in the aquarium's care center look to be in better shape than what they typically see this time of year, their blood tests revealed more internal infections.

"They are a little sicker," said aquarium biologist Kerry McNally.

LaCasse estimated the aquarium's marine animal rescue operations cost between $300,000 and $500,000 annually, paid mostly by admission fees to the main exhibition building in Boston. With more attention paid to protecting nesting sites, reducing fishing impacts and rescue of injured animals, some turtle populations are showing signs they are rebounding.

That's why the aquarium decided to invest in its new care center, which focuses mostly on turtle rehabilitation, LaCasse said.

In one of the labs of the 5,500-square-foot facility located in the old Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, McNally and senior biologist Katie Pugliares checked turtle vital signs and weight, took blood samples and cleaned wounds. The goal was to get turtles swimming and eating on their own.

These turtles are solitary creatures and generally don't play well with others.

"As they eat, they get bigger and more aggressive," McNally said. Typically, healthy turtles are moved to Southern aquariums for release.

But slower progress this year fighting infections will likely delay their release until spring or summer.

Photo: Kemp’s Ridley turtles rescued from the cold on Cape Cod beaches swim in tanks at the New England Aquarium Animal Care Center. -- Cape Cod Times/Christine Hochkeppel

Article Source:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

WILDRZ: Turtle Trouble App

Turtle app will help biologist track endangered species

HAVERHILL — For the endangered Blanding's turtle, it could be the perfect Christmas gift.

Local wildlife biologist Mark Grgurovic has teamed up with a video and technology whiz from Marblehead to create an app for the iPad which, once it's complete, will offer downloaders a turtle's-eye view of their wild world.

In turn, people who buy the app will be helping fund Grguovic's work protecting the reptile and its dwindling habitat.

"The iPad app will raise awareness of endangered turtles, and some of the proceeds will go toward my project," said Grgurovic, 36, originally from North Andover but who now lives in Haverhill. "It will allow us to buy radio transmitters and expand our protection efforts."

Grgurovic, a hardwood-floor installer by trade, moonlights as a wildlife biologist while also offering consulting services to municipalities and companies mulling development in environmentally sensitive settings.

He has been studying Blanding's turtles since 1999, when he earned a master's degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst by doing a research project on his beloved reptiles.

But it was a chance meeting last summer that may propel Grgurovic and his four-legged friends to high-tech status.

He was in Georgetown on a turtle-nest protection mission near the Parker River when he was approached by a man who was interested in the comings and goings of the turtles.

It turned out to be Paul Michaels, a videographer, photographer and software developer from Marblehead who broached the idea of putting Grgurovic and his turtles on center-stage in the form of an interactive graphic novel adapted for the iPad.

"He approached me and asked if I'd be interested," Grgurovic said. "All summer, he followed me around with a video camera, and through brainstorming together, it kind of evolved into this."

'This' is a concept that now lives only in the heads of Michaels and Grgurovic, as well on a promotional Web site known as Kickstarter, which offers investors and would-be app buyers a chance to prepay for or invest in the app, which will in turn help fund its creation.

Michaels estimates that the app will cost about $100,000 to develop. So far, just $12,600 has been raised, and the funding window on Kickstarter closes Dec. 25 — Christmas Day.

If they fail to raise the $100,000, says Michaels, he will be forced to go the more conventional, and difficult, route of raising private capital from investors.

"That's Plan B," he said.

With just a few days left for people to buy the app, or to invest varying amounts, Michaels is pulling out all the stops to entice people to buy-in to the interactive app, offering prizes for investors that include making them part of the story as it is created.

Michaels said that while Kickstarter is an unusual way of raising money, it has worked with other products. He said that once the Blanding's turtle app is developed, who hopes to roll out a whole series of wildlife-related graphic novels that offer readers a chance to insert themselves into the story while also learning about endangered species around the country.

"We want kids to own it and enjoy it and be part of the story," he said.

For Grgurovic, more exposure for the beleagured Blanding's turtle is all-good.

Once abundant throughout its habitat — from the Great Lakes to New England — the number of turtles has dwindled dramatically in recent decades as more of its traditional habitat is taken away by commercial or residential development and the construction of roads.

He explained that the turtles have a very large habitat, and that they travel many miles from their hibernation sites to nesting sites in the spring. As they go, they often must cross roads newly built through their traditional habitat. Cars and trucks are the leading killers of the turtle, which have been known to live for 100 years or more.

Grgurovic and volunteers working with him have placed radio telemetry devices on about 10 females and have been tracking their travels to nesting sites around the Parker River, mostly in Georgetown. He has identified some 90 turtles in what has become one of the most well-studied and understood Blanding's populations in the country.

As more is understood, biologists are able to use that information to identify sensitive vernal ponds or other nesting areas that might otherwise be developed and destroyed, further imperiling their population.

He said last year, developers of an industrial park agreed to build replacement habitat that was going to be destroyed by the construction of roads and buildings. The project worked, Grgurovic said, as several turtles were seen in the new habitat over the summer.

He could not say where the project is located, noting that collectors have been known to swoop in and rob nests as the hatchlings come out. The turtles are then sold on the black market for up to $10,000 apiece, he said.

"It's against the law to take an endangered species, but some people like having these as exotic pets," he said, adding that Blanding's turtles never last long in captivity. "They die within a week if they are in a glass cage," he said. The reason? "They need huge areas."

WILDRZ: A Kids Graphic Novel+ Adventure App, for your iPad
A Technology project in Marblehead, MA by Paul Michaels
More information HERE!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Turtle rescued from frigid ocean temperatures on Cape Cod

From the Marine Animal Rescue Team Blog

Hybrid the Hybrid!

Yesterday, (11/29/2011), we received our eighth sea turtle of the 2011 cold-stun season. This turtle arrived at 65F from Eastham, MA. We were told the turtle was found trying to get back into the ocean and was able to be saved and brought to the Wellfleet Audubon.

More HERE.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Conte Refuge adds 80 acres in Chesterfield to 'conservation mosaic'

CHESTERFIELD - The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced Monday that is has partnered with the Nature Conservancy to add an 80-acre parcel in Chesterfield to the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.

The land was owned by Jeffrey Poirier of Berkshire Hardwoods Inc., who sold the property Nov. 22 to Fish & Wildlife for $320,000. It is located along the Dead Branch Brook, off East Street about a quarter mile from Main Street (Route 143.)

"This process has been about four years in the making," Poirier said. "There has been a lot of conversation and kicking the tires prior to today."

On Monday afternoon, U.S. Rep. John W. Olver of Amherst joined Poirier and representatives from the Nature Conservancy and the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge on a hike through the newly protected area.

Although it was the first day of hunting season, Olver was still eager to visit the site, pushing through underbrush and slogging through mud.

"Over the years I have worked with the Nature Conservancy and Fish & Wildlife on a number of projects, and I have tried to secure earmarked funds when they are available," he said. "This is an important project because it creates a nice network of protected areas in important habitat."

Markelle Smith, a land protection specialist with the Nature Conservancy, said the property is a key parcel due to the "amazing amount of biodiversity."

As well as being home to deer, moose, black bear, coyote, red and gray fox, beaver, river otter, fisher, freshwater brook trout and Atlantic salmon, the land is critical habitat for wood turtles, a species of special concern, as well as several rare dragonfly species, according to Smith.

A recent survey conducted by aquatic biologist Ethan Nedeau of Amherst-based ecological consultancy Biodrawversity, reported that the area also provides the most promising freshwater mussel habitat in the entire Westfield River watershed. According to the Nature Conservancy, the watershed boasts some of the healthiest waters in southern New England.

Olver noted that because of development pressures along the Westfield River, it falls to the Fish & Wildlife Service to find the resources to preserve what he termed, in a statement, "one of the most fragile ecosystems within western Massachusetts."

The acquisition of this land helps establish a significant north-south conservation corridor that helps protect Dead Branch Brook and Long Pond, both of which are located within the newly preserved land off East Street. It abuts the Nature Conservancy's Bisbee preserve, located on the opposite side of East between East and Main streets, and also provides a connection to Fish & Wildlife's 580 acre Fisk Meadows Wildlife Management Area. Fisk Meadows is situated on the other side of Main Street, and also abuts the Bisbee preserve.

"This gives species greater ease of movement in a bigger forest block," Markelle said. "And when you add in the Westfield river, it becomes an extremely import place to protect."

Funding for this acquisition comes from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is maintained by money collected by the federal government from offshore oil and gas leases to be used for conservation work across the country.

"This is an exemplary use of the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, and we're extremely grateful to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and former property owner Jeff Poirier for making it a reality," Wayne Klockner, director of The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts, said in a statement. Klockner also took part in the hike.

The Conservancy works with other agencies and organizations to facilitate the purchase of land for the purpose of habitat conservation.

"We helped to identify the property as a potential conservation area, and then helped out negotiating the acquisition," said Conservancy spokesman James Miller.

The Conservancy recently purchased 69 acres nearby along the headwaters of Roberts Meadow Brook, which will be preserved as open space, adding to the list of protected parcels in the watershed.

According to Andrew French, project leader for the Conte Refuge, the acquisition represents another important piece in an ongoing conservation effort.

"This is one parcel of land that will likely be one of many pieces in the conservation puzzle that we are trying to assemble with our partner organizations," French said. "By working with willing land owners to protect this area piece by piece, we can put together a conservation mosaic of land that is structurally and functionally sound."

According to French, Fish & Wildlife typically opens up its areas to hunting and fishing, hiking, wildlife viewing, environmental interpretation and photography.

The Conte Refuge was established in 1997 to conserve and protect the abundance of native plants and wildlife that thrive in the Connecticut River Watershed in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.


Daily Hampshire Gazette © 2011 All rights reserved

Thursday, November 3, 2011

South Shore Natural Science Center welcome Northern Red-bellied Cooter

Welcome the newest member of the South Shore Natural Science Center family-- a Northern Red-bellied Cooter .

By Ruth Thompson
Wicked Local Hanover

[PHOTO -- The newest member of the science center family, an adult
Red-bellied Cooter, rests on the edge of the pond at the EcoZone.
Beside her is her “friend,” a much smaller painted turtle.]

She spent most of the afternoon lounging on the flat rock soaking in the rays. However, should she have been so inclined for a refreshing dip, the murky water of the pond was just a short slide away.

“She” is an adult Northern Red-bellied Cooter and she is the newest member of the South Shore Natural Science Center family.

She made her media debut two weeks ago and was completely unaffected.

Karen Kurkoski, naturalist and animal curator for the science center, said a veterinarian who examined the turtle believes she is between 23 and 25 years old. She weighs 10 pounds and the length of her shell measures 13-1/2 inches.

“She’s the biggest turtle we have,” Kurkoski said, adding that the cooter is in good health.

Kurkoski pointed out that the non-releasable animals, such as the adult cooter, are not given personalized names to avoid the perception that they are pets.

“They are ‘ambassadors to the wild’ and are handled for teaching purposes only,” Kurkoski said. “We are trying to educate the public to leave wildlife in the wild and obtain their pet animals from pet stores and other comparable sources.”

The science center acquired the turtle after receiving a call from MassWildLife’s Dr. Tom French who asked if the science center would be interested in taking the turtle.

There was no hesitation, said Kurkoski.

“Of course we wanted her,” she said. “We’d always wanted an adult Red-bellied Cooter.”
Kurkoski said that, according to French, the turtle was probably picked up by someone on vacation in one of the states where the turtles are naturally found, kept in captivity for awhile and then released in Connecticut where she was discovered. The turtles are not native to Connecticut.

According to the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program, a branch of the Mass. Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, the primary range of the Red-bellied Cooter is from the coastal plain of New Jersey south to North Carolina and inland to West Virginia. There is pocket of cooters – what’s known as an “isolated disjunct population” – confined to the ponds of Plymouth County.

“Because the exact location of her origination is not known, she can’t be released back into the wild,” she said.

Northern Red-bellied Cooters could live to be 40 - 55 years old, Kurkoski said, though she added that they wouldn’t get much bigger than the new turtle at the science center.

“She has reached full adult growth.”

Kurkoski said the Red-bellied Cooter is the second largest turtle in Massachusetts after the snapping turtle.
The turtle shares the EcoZone Turtle Pond at the science center with six other turtles and five fish.
“She gets along with the other turtles,” Kurkoski said. “There’s one painted turtle that hangs out with her.”

Judy Azanow, the public relations director at the science center, said the turtle is a great teaching tool.

That’s especially true now considering the science center is beginning another head start program with Red-bellied Cooter hatchlings, on display just a few feet from the EcoZone pond.

“People can see how the turtles start out and how they look as an adult,” Azanow said.

Kurkoski added that most baby cooters wouldn’t make it to an adult without protection, which is why the head start program is so important.

Despite her intimidating size, the turtle is very mild-mannered, according to Kurkoski.
She’s fed a diet of red and green leaf lettuce as well as Romaine lettuce. Kurkoski said the cooter also gets a protein stick.

“The mainstay of these turtles is plant life,” Kurkoski said.

Both Kurkoski and Azanow said the turtle seems to be fitting in quite nicely at her new and permanent home at the science center where she is being well cared for and looked upon by visitors with a sense of awe.

“We had some schoolchildren in and you should have seen their faces when they saw her,” Kurkoski said. “People are surprised at how big she is. And they are certainly impressed by her.”

For more information on the turtle, or the other animals, programs and exhibits at the science center, visit

Ruth Thompson can be reached at
Copyright 2011 Hanover Mariner. Some rights reserved


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Quincy Marine Center nursing "zombie" turtle back to life

During this past weekend's snowstorm, a walker along Martha's Vineyards' Edgartown beach came across a near dead Kemp's Ridley Turtle, in a "zombie-like state" and suffering from hypothermic shock from the below freezing temperatures.

The endangered sea turtle was rescued just in time, as it was immediately taken to a wildlife sanctuary and is now safely recovering inside New England Aquarium’s Marine Animal Care Center in Quincy.

Massachusetts typically sees hundreds of these endangered turtles popping up along the coastline throughout the winter season. Beyond life threatening hypothermia, nearly all of the effected sea turtles also suffer from dehydration, malnutrition, metabolic problems and possibly even pneumonia.

Last year, more than 120 endangered and threatened sea turtles were brought to the Quincy Marine Care Center, for treatment and recovery until the weather permitted their return to the Ocean.

The rescued turtle, found early Sunday afternoon, will be slowly re-warmed, at a few degrees warmer each day, until it's body temperature returns to it's normal state in the low 70's.

Photo Courtesy of the New England Aquarium.
Copyright 2011 The Patriot Ledger. Some rights reserved.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Lecture series celebrates 'Year of the Turtle' at Wellfleet Library

WELLFLEET — Out of the oil spill into the spoon — that could be the mantra of the modern-day turtle. When they’re not dodging cars on roads or contending with habitat loss, turtles, terrapins and their terrestrial counterparts, tortoises, face a host of challenges, from the degradation of the marine environment to poachers who put them in soup.

“2011 has been designated the year of the turtle by international turtle conservation groups to focus on the fact that turtles around the world are among the most endangered species that there are,” says Bob Prescott, director of Mass. Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. “Turtles in general have not adapted well to the 21st century.”

Prescott will be giving a three-part seminar, “Celebrating the Year of the Turtle,” at the Wellfleet Library starting at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 3, and continuing on Nov. 10 and 17. Just ahead of sea turtle stranding season, the series will educate participants on the species that inhabit — or frequent — the Cape, and the efforts to preserve them.

“Turtles are sometimes the first species of wildlife that people can see,” Prescott says. Here on the Cape, “we’re very fortunate that there are a number of species that we have on a regular basis. Kids go to the ponds and see painted turtles sitting on rocks, snapping turtles coming out to lay eggs.”
Just last week, he adds, naturalists exploring the sanctuary swamp were pleasantly surprised to encounter a box turtle, rarely seen after Columbus Day weekend.

Box turtles will be the first topic of the Nov. 3 seminar, which will provide an overview of turtles.

“The box turtle is a species of special concern in Massachusetts,” Prescott says. “I’ll talk about their natural history, why they’re doing particularly well on the Outer Cape.” Recognizable by their domed, orange-and-black shells, box turtles benefit from the Cape’s mix of woodlands and open meadows, which offer an ideal combination of shadowy hideout and sunny nesting space.

Diamondback terrapins are the focus of the second session. These coastal dwellers, often found in marshy spots or estuaries, are the subject of a study in Wellfleet Harbor, where 75 diamondbacks were tagged with transmitters this past spring. The transmitters will allow researchers to track them. The marshes of South Wellfleet are also a hotspot for terrapin hatchlings, which emerge from the nests in late summer and early fall.

The Cape represents the northernmost extremity of their range.

“In some places, they’re doing fairly well — Wellfleet, Eastham. Orleans is a bit of a challenge,” Prescott says — particularly in the Pleasant Bay area, where scientists have noted a dip in the diamondback terrapin population.

No turtle seminar in November would be complete without a look at Kemp’s ridleys, loggerheads and other sea turtles, which are on the syllabus for the last seminar. November typically marks the start of sea turtle stranding season, and Prescott and his team of sanctuary naturalists have led a concerted effort to rescue the washed-up turtles for the past 35 years.

“The first [Kemp’s ridley] turtle I found was in 1974. It was a dead one,” Prescott says. The rescue program that has evolved since then uses volunteers to comb the bay beaches when winds and tides conspire to push the dinner-plate-sized Kemp’s ridleys, cold-stunned by dropping water temperatures, to shore. Once the creatures are retrieved from the beach, they’re transported to the New England Aquarium for rest and rehab. They’re released back into the wild after they’ve recuperated.

Prescott says the stranding patterns have shifted in recent years.

“If anything it seems like the stranding season has been more compressed, with turtles stranding later, from Thanksgiving to the end of December. But the numbers have been high,” he says. “It’s been crazy with [high] turtle numbers over a shorter period of time. It puts more pressure on volunteers, everybody.”

Some of Prescott’s talk will address the need for new volunteers. The lecture will also touch on “what turtles are doing here in the summertime.” Hard-shelled and loggerhead turtles are seen in local waters throughout the summer and into the fall, he says.

Prescott points out that the stranding of sea turtles on the Cape’s bay shores is a phenomenon that dates back centuries.

“They turn up in the literature, they turn up in the Native American midden sites. It’s just an accident of geography. They just get caught,” he says.

To register for the seminar, sign up at the front desk of the Wellfleet Public Library, 55 West Main St. There is a fee of $5 for each session.

Copyright 2011 Wicked Local Truro. Some rights reserved


Saturday, August 20, 2011

First Terrapin Hatchling 2011 Emerges

Tiny Diamondback Terrapin Hatchling Emerges

By Don Lewis

The first diamondback terrapin hatchling of 2011 emerged on Friday afternoon after 63 days of incubation under the hot summer sands of Lieutenant Island in South Wellfleet. Terrapins are medium sized coastal turtles found along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. They can be found in Southern New England estuaries and salt marsh ecosystems, and are protected as a threatened species in Massachusetts and an endangered species in Rhode Island. Wellfleet Bay on Outer Cape Cod marks the northernmost habitat in the world for this rare hard-shelled reptile.

In June and July terrapin females crawl ashore from brackish estuaries to lay nests in sandy uplands. They deposit an average of 12-to-13 eggs in each clutch, and usually lay two nests a year. As many as 90% of unprotected nests can be devoured by a host of predators, large and small, from raccoons, skunks, foxes and coyotes to fly larvae, red ants and beach grass roots. Once hatchlings emerge from the nest, they fall prey to these same large predators, augmented by crows, gulls and raptors, as they scramble to the safety of nursery habitat in the salt marsh. As the tide floods in, crabs and fish join the attack on these tiny, yet tasty critters.

"Pipped" Terrapin Egg Nearly Ready to Hatch

When the Turtle Journal team ( checked a nest that had been laid on 17 June on the south shore of Lieutenant Island, they discovered that one of the top eggs had "pipped." Turtle hatchlings are equipped with a small, sharp egg tooth just below the nostrils. When ready, the hatchling scratches this tool against the egg wall until the shell is pierced. The initial hole quickly oozes albumin (see above), and the baby turtle begins to use its strong, sharp claws to rip and widen the breach. Observations have shown that the whole process can take four to five days from initial "pipping" of the egg until the hatchling emerges, tunnels to the surface and scrambles to the safety of nearby vegetation.

As the team probed deeper into the nest, they discovered an egg that had been "pipped" for several days with a substantial tear in the shell and a hatchling itching for freedom. As soon as sunlight touched the baby's face, it sprang to action and squirmed free of its egg shell. This hatchling had incubated in its egg for 63 days. The average incubation time for mid-June nests ranges between 55 and 75 days, depending on summer temperatures and exposure of the sand atop the nest to direct sunlight.

Terrapin Hatchling Season Begins in Southeastern Massachusetts

Friday's discovery is a harbinger of things to come ... and to come quickly. Once hatchling emergence begins, it kicks instantly into high gear. The beautiful warm sunshine forecast for this weekend will cue hundreds of hatchlings to tunnel to the surface and scramble for safety. Predators will be similarly cued to hatchling emergence, and those few feet from the exposed nest in sandy uplands to camouflage in thick vegetation are the most dangerous passage in the life of a terrapin. As you stroll the shoreline this weekend, look down and keep a sharp watch for tiny babies bubbling to the surface of dunes, coastal banks and dirt paths and roadways. If you discover a baby turtle, give a call to the 24/7 turtle hotline at 508-274-5108.

Mass Audubon and Turtle Journal have been involved in diamondback terrapin conservation from the South Coast of Massachusetts to the Outer Cape for more than three decades to reverse the decline of this threatened species. Hundreds of terrapin nests that were discovered in June and July by researchers and volunteers have been protected with predator excluders (chicken wire cages). If you run across one of these protected nests that dot the Wellfleet coastline, and you detect a baby turtle within the cage, give a holler to the hotline.

Not only diamondback terrapins are hatching. Other Massachusetts turtle species, such as painteds, spotteds, boxes and snappers, are also ready to emerge throughout the Commonwealth.

If you're looking for a nature walk that might offer the chance to spot one of these exquisite hatchlings, the Goose Pond or the Bay View trails at Mass Audubon's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary off West Road in South Wellfleet would be a perfect choice.

For more information about this topic, for access to illustrative images or to arrange an interview, contact Don Lewis at (508) 274-5108 or email him at The embedded images are the sole intellectual property of Don Lewis and Sue Wieber Nourse who authorize the use of these photographs to illustrate this story.

Don Lewis is executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Districts; Sue Wieber Nourse is a marine researcher, textbook author and master educator. Known as the Turtle Guy, Don and his spouse and partner, Sue Wieber Nourse, have led research, rescue and conservation activities on Cape Cod and around the globe for more than a decade. They own and operate Cape Cod Consultants, an environmental solutions company that specializes in wildlife management and habitat assessments that protect nature while enabling dreams. Lewis and Wieber Nourse document the nature of coastal Massachusetts on their web site, Turtle Journal (

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ten rescued turtles released off Cape Cod


Workers from the New England Aquarium have released 10 endangered sea turtles back into the wild, months after they were rescued after stranding themselves on Cape Cod.

Aquarium officials say the turtles were released from a lobster boat Friday night in Nantucket Sound.

The turtles were the last group to be released from among those rescued during the 2010 stranding season. The turtles became trapped in Cape Cod Bay as the water chilled through the autumn, before washing up on beaches in November and December.

Aquarium officials say these turtles were among the season's toughest cases. Some had major shell fractures that required surgery, others had pneumonia and exotic infections.

Two of the released turtles had satellite tags attached, so their movements can be tracked.


© Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Second Dead Leatherback Turtle Found

Nantucket Sound

By: John H. Hough
Published: 08/02/11

A second leatherback turtle was found dead in Nantucket Sound this week. A 567-pound sea turtle was discovered by a boater off Edgartown floating entangled in a net with a buoy wrapped around its neck.

The creature was found at 7:20 AM on Sunday and towed to the mouth of Falmouth Inner Harbor where it could be picked up by the New England Aquarium and taken to its new Quincy laboratory for a necropsy.

Officials moored the turtle, which was floating, near the entrance of the harbor out of the way of boaters, about 20 feet from the signal light at the harbor’s entrance.

Evan A. Hutker and Anna L. Mihai, who were having dinner near the mouth of Falmouth Inner Harbor at the time of the turtle’s arrival, could not make out what it was with any certainty, but soon noticed that what was being towed was a large, dead animal. “At first I thought it was a big pile of nets” said Mr. Hutker. “When we looked closer it looked like a turtle.”

The turtle came to Falmouth Harbor less than a week after a 440-pound leatherback washed ashore on the beach in front of the Tides Motel. That sea turtle was found upside down with four propeller strikes and hull paint on its back, suggesting it succumbed to one of the Cape’s most common causes of leatherback fatality: being hit by recreational boaters.

After spending the night moored outside of Falmouth Inner Harbor, the turtle found entangled off Edgartown was towed by the Falmouth Harbor Master’s office into the harbor where it could be lifted out of the water and into the bed of the New England Aquarium’s pickup truck.

Assistant Harbor Master Daniel Gould, escorted by the Massachusetts environmental police, motored up the harbor with the carcass in tow. Mr. Gould backed the turtle dockside near a slip at the far end of the parking lot and the town boat ramp while Deputy Harbor Master William Palm maneuvered a forklift into place. The carcass was attached to the forklift and hauled slowly out of the water and onto the pavement while lines were untied on the carcass and the lift’s forks readjusted. Mr. Palm put the forks to the pavement to get under the turtle, and with patient precision, lifted it into the pickup truck.

The law enforcement branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will be investigating the entangled line that was still attached to a trap when the turtle was taken into the harbor.

The leatherback hauled out yesterday that was found entangled in gear, New England Aquarium spokesman Anthony LaCasse pointed out, is interesting because in the span of less than a week the two most common causes of death for leatherback sea turtles may have turned up in Falmouth, though he was quick to point out that at this point both turtles may have suffered their respective fates postmortem, and as of yet there is no definitive cause of death.

Fascinated onlookers came down to see the carcass that had formerly been a living juvenile leatherback weighing more than 600 pounds before decomposition took its toll.

The leatherback, which is listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as critically endangered, exhibits some unusual qualities for turtles. It holds the title of world’s largest reptile, weighing in around 800 to 900 pounds; the largest on record was over 2,000 pounds. Strikingly different from most sea turtles, their carapace, or shell, is not made of bone. Instead about an inch and a half of tough leathery skin covers their ridged back, hence their name, leatherback.
An unusual characteristic among reptiles is the fact that the leatherback has the ability to regulate its internal temperature.
Mr. LaCasse warned that boaters who find leatherback sea turtles entangled should not attempt to free them. Their size and strength can be a serious danger for people who, despite good intentions, could end up themselves entangled with a leviathan many times their own size. Boaters are advised to report the incident to the Coast Guard and stay on the scene so that trained officials can find the turtle and free it.

The Center for Coastal Studies freed two leatherbacks in the last week, including a 700-pound turtle disentangled off Sesuit harbor in Dennis.

Robert Prescott, director of the Massachusetts Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, noted that a number of dead turtles have been spotted in Vineyard Sound as well as the reports of several dead loggerheads washing ashore.

Several officials noted the increase in the jellyfish population to be an indication of a possible increase in the local leatherback sea turtle population as they follow their food into the area.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Wild Cape Cod Lecture Series: THE TURTLE WHISPERER

Turtles and tortoises have existed relatively unchanged for nearly 215 million years, yet the world’s 300 species of chelonians are arguably the most endangered vertebrates on Earth! Herpetologist Ian Ives will focus on the turtles of Cape Cod (with living examples).

DIRECTIONS: Cross the Sagamore Bridge onto Cape Cod. From Route 6, take exit 7 to Yarmouth Port. Go north one mile on Willow Street, and take a left onto Route 6A west. Proceed for approximately one mile, then take a right on Bone Hill Road (where you’ll see a large sign for the Harbor Point Restaurant) and a smaller sign for Long Pasture. Follow Bone Hill Road past the upper trail head parking area to the end of Bone Hill Rd and look for a large white Sanctuary sign on your left. Take this driveway to the Visitor Center parking area. Parking is available in the field to your left, and around the circular drive in front of the Visitor Center.

Event Date

Adults: $6 for Members of Mass Audubon, $8 for Non-Members; Children: $4 for Members, $6 for Non-Members

7:30 PM to 9 PM

345 Bone Hill Road, Cummaquid, MA 02637 (view map)

Contact Information
For more information call Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary at (508) 362-7475 x 9355

For more information, visit


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Massachusetts wildlife officials seeks top turtle roadkill sites

Massachusetts wildlife officials seek public's help locating top turtle roadkill sites

Question: Why did the turtle cross the road?

Answer: A genetic imperative.

By Stan Freeman for
Photo by Stan Freeman

In recent weeks, turtles have been climbing out of the comfortable confines of ponds, lakes and streams, driven by strong reproductive instincts that have launched them on a search to find a suitable spot on dry land to lay eggs.

However, a huge number of them are killed on roadways as they make the effort, and that worries state wildlife officials who are asking the public’s help in identifying turtle death hot spots.

“Many turtle species in Massachusetts are in decline and a lot of that has to do with road mortality,” said Marion E. Larson, a wildlife biologist for the state Division of Fisheries & Wildlife.

“So we’re asking people to tell us about where they are seeing road-killed turtles to try and identify where there are highway crossings with a lot of mortality,” Larson said. “Then, as roads are repaired by departments of transportation, they may be able to change the design to make it more turtle friendly.”

The Turtle Roadway Mortality Study is a joint multi-year effort by the state Department of Transportation, the state Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program and the Vernal Pool Association. The online citizen reporting page can be found at:

Massachusetts has 10 native turtles, all of which lay their eggs on land, even though some (including the state’s largest native turtle, the snapping turtle) almost never venture from water at any other time.

The peak time for egg laying is late May to early July. Typically, the eggs, which are laid in holes dug in loose or sandy soil, hatch in two to three months.

Begun in 2010, the turtle study will need several years of data before the researchers “can feel confident that we’ve identified the majority of the significant roadkill sites” in the state, said Michael T. Jones, a biologist at University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Jones is one of the project’s coordinators.

“The worst sites that we currently know of are in eastern Massachusetts, where road density and traffic volume are greatest. At one particularly bad site in Middlesex County, more than 100 turtles of multiple species are killed each spring,” he said.

At that site, along Route 119 in Littleton, the state is putting in a “turtle-friendly” culvert, as part of a scheduled road upgrade, that will act as a tunnel to allow them to cross beneath the road, Larson said.

As road sections throughout the state come up for repair or upgrade, the list of turtle-mortality hot spots will be consulted to see if a change could be made to the project design to lower the mortality, Larson said.

Turtles can live long lives, with some box turtles reaching 100 years. Since some species do not reach reproductive age until they are age 10 or more, early deaths can have a great impact on their population, Jones said.

“Turtle populations appear to be more negatively affected by high levels of roadkill than amphibians and most mammals,” he said.

However, that occurs because of the breaking up of landscapes by roads and development. According to the state Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, the number one reason why turtle populations – as well as those of many animals – are in decline is the fragmentation, degradation and loss of habitat.

© 2011 All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Eel River restoration complete

More than 60 acres of habitat for wildlife and the public have been restored in Plymouth - recreating a white cedar swamp with dramatic improvements to fish passage, water quality, wetlands, bird migration corridors and recreational opportunities.

The $2 million Eel River project team recently won a national Coastal America Partnership Award for its multi-year effort.

The project area, now protected as the Eel River Preserve, is off Long Pond Road in Plymouth. The spring-fed Eel River drains to Plymouth Harbor.

““It is this type of grassroots partnership that will protect and restore sensitive coastal areas for wildlife and people to enjoy,’’ “said Eileen Sobeck, Department of the Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks in a statement.

The award, given to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Massachusetts environmental agencies, the Town of Plymouth and local companies, recognizes collaborations that leverage and combine resources to accomplish coastal restoration, preservation, protection and education projects.

The team restored about 40 acres of retired cranberry bogs and removed a downstream dam. The removal or replacement of six culverts and the placement of hundreds of large wood pieces helped create habitat and passage for aquatic species, as well as reestablish natural water flow, according to an announcement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

More than 24,000 plants, including 17,000 Atlantic white cedar trees, have been planted to help restore rare wetland plant communities. The area supports one of few New England populations of the federally endangered northern red-bellied cooter turtles, as well as populations of eastern box turtles, bridle shiner fish, barrens buckmoth, adder’s-tongue fern and swamp oats.

The area, now managed by the Town of Plymouth, was historically known as Finney’s Meadow, according to the press release. A series of mills and dams were constructed in the early 1800s, and cranberry farming began in the second half of that century, continuing until 2002, according to a press release on the restoration.

Major financial contributions were provided by the USFWS National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program, NRCS and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Section 319 Grant Program.

Project partners include: Town of Plymouth, Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game, Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program), U.S. Department of Agriculture (Natural Resources Conservation Service), American Rivers, The Nature Conservancy, Massachusetts Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, Horsley Witten Group, Inter-fluve, Inc., Sumco Eco-Contracting, and the A.D. Makepeace Company.

Photo caption: The Eel River Preserve in Plymouth, Mass., is home to one of the few New England populations of northern red-bellied cooter turtles. (Bill Byrne, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Tanks for the National Marine Life Center's efforts

Readying for sea turtle rescues

Though her species is considered “threatened” in Massachusetts, Teanna is a fortunate little Diamond-backed Terrapin.

Luck was not exactly on her side last January, though.

That’s when the salt marsh turtle somehow managed to fall into a basement window well, and became trapped.

No one’s sure how long she was stuck without food or water, but to say she was a shell of her former self when discovered is an understatement.

She was near death and needed emergency medical treatment. That’s when her luck got better.
She was rushed to the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in North Grafton, where she was stabilized.

But she needed somewhere to convalesce, and that’s where the National Marine Life Center stepped in, said the NMLC’s Director of Science and associate veterinarian, Dr. Sea Rogers Williams.

Today, a hale and hearty Teanna is due to be released back in her native Wellfleet this week, and shares a front room at the NMLC’s offices at 120 Main St. with a trio of ailing Northern red-bellied cooters, though not the same tank.

Williams said the NMLC is happy to help the state’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife with local turtle travails, but its guiding mission is to rescue and restore stranded sea turtles, seals and larger sea-going aquatic creatures.

The non-profit has recently completed installation of two tanks, fed by the abutting Cape Cod Canal, capable of sustaining Teanna’ larger sea-going cousins, as well as seals. Three more tanks are also being prepared in the NMLC’s hospital facility and work is still underway to install even larger tanks that can be used to aid in the treatment of dolphins and small whales.

As friendly as Cape Cod can be to human tourists, it can be a tough ’hood for visiting aquatic creatures. Each year up to 56 seals, 98 dolphins and 144 sea turtles are stranded on Cape beaches, sick or injured. The NMLC was formed in 1995 to create a treatment facility and began construction of the hospital on Main Street in 2009.

Eventually, the completed hospital will have tanks capable of housing aquatic creatures ranging in size from two-foot-long Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles, considered the smallest of the marine turtle set, to 20-foot-long pilot whales, weighing in at up to three tons, said Kathy Zagzebski, NMLC president and executive director.

She took visitors on a tour of the hospital during the organization’s annual meeting on May 26, starting with the room housing the completed tanks ready for occupancy which will be open for business within the next month or two and ending at the unfinished portion that will be designed for the larger creatures.

“I ask you to close your eyes and use your imagination” to see what will be.

The non-profit NMLC’s fundraising mission is ongoing, for while $3.1 million has gone into the project so far, another $2 million to $3 million will be needed to complete it.

“It’s a tremendous challenge to build,” she said.

Source: Tanks for the National Marine Life Center's efforts - Wareham, MA - Wicked Local Wareham

Contact Frank at
Copyright 2011 Wicked Local Wareham. Some rights reserved

Monday, May 30, 2011

Red bellied turtles released into Burrage Pond in Hanson

By Alice C. Elwell
Enterprise Correspondent
Posted May 30, 2011

More than 100 parents, children and students joined the Department of Fish and Game to celebrate the year of the turtle and released over 100 red-bellied cooters into the wild on Friday.

“These are gorgeous Northern red bellied cooters,” said DFG Commissioner Mary Griffin.

She said 2011 was declared the year of the turtle by Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation to raise awareness about diminishing turtle populations and encourage conservation.

The turtles released at the Burrage Pond Wildlife Management Area in Hanson were the lucky ones who were captured last fall for the “headstart” program, launched in 1980 to restore a dwindling population that bottomed out in the 1970s to about 300 red bellied cooters statewide.

In 1981, the cooter was declared a federally endangered species and a MassWildlife refuge was established for the turtles, said Peter Mirick, wildlife biologist for the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.

He said the bullfrog is the most devastating predator to the cooter population and will eat about two a day when the turtles first hatch and are about the size of a quarter.

Headstarted turtles reach the size of a 5-year-old in one winter, “big bruisers” with a hard shell that are ignored by bullfrogs.

The state enlists schools across the region to partner with the headstart program and raise the cooters over the winter.

“Kids are helping save an endangered species in Massachusetts,” Mirick said.

The program has saturated ponds the Plymouth/Career area, Mirick said and finished up stocking the Assawompset Pond system in Middleboro and Lakeville. On Friday the cooters range was expanded to Hanson, “Our next beachhead,” Mirick said.

With 7-week-old Harrison Cuddy harnessed to her chest, Jennifer Jordan of Whitman watched over her son, Zachary Cuddy, as he mulled whether to release a turtle. The shy 4-year-old couldn’t decide if he wanted to pick up one of the squirming cooters.

Bodie Johnson, 5, of Abington, didn’t think twice about picking up a cooter and gently releasing it into the pond.

“I just wanted to,” said the boy.

His sister Aubrie, 1, wasn’t so fearless and clung to her father, Neil Johnson, who brought his children to the release saying, “I’m always trying to get them out in nature.”

Shane McLaughlin, 8 of Bridgewater, turned his attention from the turtles to a water snake that slithered close to shore.

“It’s cool, I’m not afraid of it,” he said.

But his sister Zoe, 6, kept her distance from the snake. She preferred releasing the cooter and said, “He felt soft on the bottom and crawled out of my hand.”

The turtle hunters who make the program possible are John Crane and 11-year-old Connor. The Plymouth natives track the turtles to their nests in late summer. The nests are covered with wire cages once the eggs are laid to protect them from predators. The senior Crane said the cooters’ gender is determined by the weather, a cold summer fosters males, a warm summer females.

The Johnsons keep vigil on about 70 nests until the eggs hatch and then scoop up the hatchlings into baskets and bring them home.

“I’ve have upwards of 1,000 baskets in my living room,” Crane said.

The best are culled from each clutch, notched with identifying marks, photographed and then raised over the winter in classrooms throughout the state. The remaining cooters are returned to the wild and will go dormant over the winter.

Their lucky brethren are kept in warm waters so they don’t go dormant, and fed a nutritious diet to encourage growth. They are the size of 5-year-old wild turtles, by the time they are released and have much better odds of survival.

By spring, the cooters that were once little bigger than a quarter can reach about six inches, and are too big to be gobbled up by their only live predator – bullfrogs.

Once the cooter reaches adulthood, their only predator is the car and state officials encouraged folks to stop if is safe when a turtle is crossing the road and help it to the other side and point it in the direction it was headed.

Copyright 2011 The Patriot Ledger. Some rights reserved


Friday, May 27, 2011

"Turtle Crossing" sign warns drivers

Signs on Sheffield road go up in the springtime

Published : Friday, 27 May 2011 -- Tom Jay

SHEFFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - Many communities in Western Massachusetts have signs on roadsides warning drivers of "Deer Crossing," "Turkey Crossing," or "Watch for Wildlife." But in the Southern Berkshire County Town of Sheffield, there's an odd one."Turtle Crossing".

The signs are located on the Berkshire School Road, which runs from Route 7 to Route 41, and is used as a short cut by many drivers going from one side of the town to the other.

There are two locations where the road either goes through a swamp, or runs adjecent to a large pond, and it is at these two locations where you will find "Turtle Crossing" signs.

A check with the Sheffield Police Department learned that these signs are put up only in the spring, apparently when turtles cross the road to lay eggs in the swampy areas.. The the Sheffield Town Administrators office told 22News that the signs were donated to the town ( paid for with private money ) by a concerned citizen who didn't like the idea of the female turtles being "squished" by the oncoming traffic.

The signs are very visible, and after they were donated were put up with the help of the Town highway department .


Friday, May 20, 2011

Celebrate Turtles with MassWildlife! -- Hanson/Halifax

Celebrate Turtles with MassWildlife!


The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW), invites the public to a release of endangered Northern Red-bellied Turtles and "Celebrate Turtles" event from 10 AM - 12 Noon on Friday May 27, 2011 at the DFW's Burrage Pond Wildlife Management Area in Hanson/Halifax.

This family-friendly event will provide turtle enthusiasts an opportunity to release "head-started" Red-bellied Northern Cooters, see a broad selection of other live native turtles found here in Massachusetts, learn about the threats to turtles here in Massachusetts from biologists and other turtle enthusiasts. You'll also see how turtles are tracked with telemetry and discover how you can help these ancient creatures.

This is a rain or shine event.

Burrage Pond State Wildlife Management Area
149 Elm St. Halifax, MA

Telephone: 508-759-3406

Directions: From Route 24: Take exit 16A (Route 106 East) Follow Route 106 East for 6.8 miles (Route 106 makes several bends and intersections) Turn Left on Pond St. travel for 0.4 miles. Turn Left onto Washington St for 50 feet. Turn right onto Pond St, travel for 1.8 miles. Turn right onto Elm St. and travel 0.2 miles, entrance to the parking lot will be on your left.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Why are bog turtles getting sick?

Photo credit: Julie Larsen Maher/Wildlife Conservation Society.

Smallest turtle in the land becomes more scarce

Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo veterinarians partner with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to examine recent mortality increase in tiny bog turtles

The Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo veterinarians, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program have joined forces to answer a perplexing wildlife question: Why are bog turtles getting sick?

The dilemma shines a light on North America's smallest turtle; an adult bog turtle reaches only 4.5 inches in length and as many ounces. Wildlife managers working in a few known bog turtle habitats in the Northeast have reported higher than average mortality rates for these threatened reptiles in the past few years.

To determine the cause of the increase in mortality at some sites and identify the baseline health condition at other sites, WCS's Global Health Program—based at the Bronx Zoo—is lending its expertise in wildlife health assessments. WCS health experts have joined federal and state wildlife managers in the field at locations in New York State and Massachusetts.

The bog turtle team is currently locating wild turtles for health assessments to determine these baseline conditions and possibly identify a common cause to explain recent turtle mortality. After conducting a physical exam of individual turtles, health experts will collect a number of samples—blood, feces, cloacal swabs, biopsies—for later analysis.

"We're conducting a broad screening in order to identify a cause or causes for the increase in bog turtle deaths," said Dr. Bonnie Raphael, WCS's Department Head for Wildlife Medicine. "This information will be used to help determine if these recent losses are attributable to infectious disease, environmental perturbations, or other factors."

Although there are no reliable range-wide population estimates for bog turtles, the species is currently protected on state, national, and international levels. The number of known habitats for the threatened northern population of the bog turtle—which has a patchy distribution stretching from Massachusetts to Maryland—is shrinking. The bog turtle is federally listed as "Threatened," and is "Endangered" in New York State and Massachusetts. All international trade in the species is prohibited through CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).

"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has made bog turtle recovery a priority," said Alison Whitlock, Northeast Region Bog Turtle Recovery Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "We are working with many partners from state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private landowners to address the threats to this species. Working with the Wildlife Conservation Society to conduct this health assessment addresses one of the recovery objectives, and we are looking forward to continuing this partnership in conservation."


WCS has been involved in the study and conservation of bog turtles since 1973. A bog turtle research project conducted by Dr. Whitlock was one of the first conservation initiatives funded by WCS's North America Program in 1995. WCS Global Health Program veterinarians are recognized as experts in turtle health programs in national and international field efforts as well as zoological park based programs and thus are uniquely qualified for this investigation.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

World Turtle Day - May 23rd

World Turtle Day, sponsored every year since 2000 by American Tortoise Rescue, was established to bring attention to, and increase knowledge of and respect for, turtles and tortoises. Turtle Day is celebrated worldwide in a variety of ways, including dressing up as turtles, assisting turtles crossing roadways (when conditions are safe), and taking part in research activities (such as citizen science volunteer programs).

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Terrific Turtles! @ Laughing Brook Wildlife Sanctuary

Turtle Day

Sponsored by Connecticut River Valley Sanctuaries

Sat, May 21, 2011 10:00 am - 1:00 pm

Location: Laughing Brook Wildlife Sanctuary
Instructors: Field Walk Leaders; Patti Steinman - Education Coordinator, Connecticut River Valley Sanctuaries
Audience: All (suitable for children ages 3 - 100 yrs)
Fee: Adults $0, Children $0.00m/ $0.00nm

Come visit Laughing Brook and learn about turtles from Mass Audubon staff and 4th grade students at the Green Meadows Elementary School, Hampden. Thanks to the generous support of the Community Foundation of Western Mass, Mass Audubon staff have been working with the school on a grant focusing on turtles.

Meet a live turtle, learn about the turtle species in the state and their status and take a natural history walk at Laughing Brook. Bring a picnic lunch if you choose!

For more information, contact:

127 Combs Road
Easthampton, MA 01027

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Celebrate Turtles with MassWildlife!

Westborough--The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW), invites the public to a "Celebrate Turtles" event from 4PM - 7PM at the DFW Field Headquarters off North Drive in Westborough.

This free, family-friendly event will provide turtle enthusiasts a close encounter with a broad selection of live native turtles found here in Massachusetts, including both common and state-listed species. Learn about the threats to turtles here in Massachusetts and ways in which you can help these ancient creatures. Talk with biologists and other turtle enthusiasts at a variety of turtle related stations featuring native turtles, turtle telemetry and research, turtle conservation tips, and a presentation on Head-starting Endangered Red-bellied Cooter (turtle) hatchlings.

This is a rain or shine event.

May 20th --> 4PM - 7PM

1 Rabbit Hill Rd
Westborough, MA 01581
Tel: (508) 389-6300 Fax: (508) 389-7890

Friday, April 29, 2011

2011 Turtle Survey Site Selection is Underway

MassDOT, DFW/NHESP and UMass Amherst are preparing the 2011 surveys for the Turtle Roadway Mortality Monitoring Program. This survey season is shaping up to be quite extensive, as they have surveys at over 100 sites.

Each year, thousands of turtles are killed on highways in Massachusetts as they are moving between wetlands or seeking a nest site. In the context of a MassDOT-MassWildlife inter-agency agreement, the two agencies have initiated a Turtle Road-Crossing Study to identify, monitor, and upgrade “hotspot” crossing locations across the Commonwealth.

They are currently in the process of identifying sites which volunteers can choose from. Volunteers are needed to identify, monitor, and report turtle road-crossing hotspots. Please consider volunteering to monitor a road-crossing hotspot in 2011.

For more information, please visit their website:

Sunday, April 24, 2011

State wants roadkill documentation

Tracking kill
State wants roadkill documentation


Piles of feathers, fur and gore are a common sight on the state's highways and byways this time of year, but unless the mess is particularly spectacular, most people drive on by with not much more than a quick glance.

Roadkill is ubiquitous, especially on major highways that cross wetlands or large areas of undeveloped land. Increasing development is causing more interaction between nature and the public with wildlife often on the losing end.

Looking for a way to allow man and wild to coexist, scientists working for the state Department of Transportation and the state Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program are asking for help from citizen scientists willing to take a good look at the carnage they pass during their daily commute and record what they see dead on the road, where and when, and maybe take a photo if they can. Among the most common dead animals reported since the study began have been moose, bear, deer, coyotes, fishers, fox, mink and otter, but people are also reporting squirrels, turkey vultures, red-tailed hawks, raccoon and other creatures too slow to avoid speeding cars and trucks.

The point of all of this is not that there is a sudden interest in dead animals, but the data collected will be used to better determine where safety fences can be erected on the edge of highways, larger culverts can be installed to allow better passage of aquatic wildlife or other wildlife friendly measures can be taken to reduce unnecessary animal mortality and also protect drivers from collisions with large animals.

David Paulson, a biologist for the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program said that the study will provide wildlife biologists with range information for various species and better understand patterns of migration by wildlife that intersect with roads and what can be done to prevent car accidents.

The program began in 2008 with an agreement between the state Department of Transportation and the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife's Natural Heritage and Endangered Species program to study how roadways affect wildlife in the state, with an eye toward reducing wildlife vehicle collisions. Working with the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the agencies launched what they hope will be a long-term, volunteer-based research project.

Timothy Dexter, an environmental analyst for the state Department of Transportation's Highway Division said the data collected will allow the two departments to make the case for wildlife friendly highway improvements in the future.

“There hasn't been to date the science to determine if a significant issue exists,” he said.

The project is one of the first of its kind in the nation. The three central focuses of the program are species of high conservation priority that that suffer high roadway mortality, species that predictably cross roads through their regular range or migration and other species that are subject to wildlife mortality. To accomplish this, they are operating three projects simultaneously. One is the wildlife mortality database where people can enter their observations of roadkill at At the same internet link, people are invited to report mass migrations of vernal pool salamander migrations. The third study is a little more complex involving the survey of turtle mortality hotspots. Volunteers for that project are being asked to contact Mr. Dexter at or Mr. Paulson at

Mr. Paulson said they are hoping to expand the number of volunteers this year from those that reported more than 332 wildlife roadkills from December 2009 to March of this year.

“There are a lot of people out there documenting this,” he said.

The turtle study especially is critical as some populations are at risk of being driven toward extinction from motor vehicles.

“When people think about wildlife transportation accidents, they think about deer, but turtles cross roads at a very high rate,” he said.

In many cases, turtles cross roads from the ponds they live in to sandy areas to lay their eggs and then return to the ponds they live in. Their offspring are also at risk when they hatch and cross to their home in a pond.

In Central Massachusetts in recent years, efforts have been made to reduce turtle mortality by erecting in Petersham and Princeton warning of turtles crossing the roads. In Wayland, high school students took it a step further, erecting a 3,600 foot fence along an area of Route 27 known to be an area of high turtle activity. The site saw the second highest turtle mortality of places studied over the past year.

The worst place found for turtle mortality was on Route 119 in Littleton where the road crosses Beaver Brook. Mr. Paulson said the problem there is the 1920s culvert is full to the top with water. He said the turtles may fine it easier to attempt to cross the busy road, rather than swim underwater through the culvert. Of the 300-plus turtles found dead in roadways last year, 101 were at that one crossing.

Studies have found that although turtles are small, Mr. Dexter said they can create significant risk for drivers. It has been shown drivers have three reactions when they see a turtle in the road — swerve to avoid it, swerve to hit it or do nothing. Each reaction represented 33 percent of the instances reported, meaning 66-percent of the time drivers swerved in reaction to a turtle, creating a dangerous situation for the drivers.

The vernal pool activity takes place mostly in the early spring, but mammal migrations and mortality take place through the year. The study is monitoring turtles through the spring and early summer.

Volunteers, either individually or in groups are invited to take part in the project, which Mr. Dexter said will continue as long as there is interest.