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