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.

Source: http://www.gazettenet.com/2011/11/29/80-acres-in-chesterfield-adds-to-039conservation-mosaic039

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 www.ssnsc.org

Ruth Thompson can be reached at rthompson@wickedlocal.com.
Copyright 2011 Hanover Mariner. Some rights reserved

Source: http://www.wickedlocal.com/hanover/news/enviroment/x213524184/South-Shore-Natural-Science-Center-welcome-Northern-Red-bellied-Cooter

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.
Source: http://www.patriotledger.com/mobile/x189903595/Quincy-Marine-Center-nursing-zombie-turtle-back-to-life