Monday, May 28, 2012

State wildlife officials to release more than 100 endangered turtles

HANSON, Mass — State wildlife officials are planning to release more than 100 endangered turtles that have been raised in a program that tries to help them survive past the early months of their lives.

Division of Fisheries and Wildlife officials will release the Northern Red-bellied Cooter hatchlings on Tuesday at Burrage Pond Wildlife Management Area in Hanson.

The endangered hatchlings were removed from the wild last fall. Then, as part of a program called "Headstarting," they were paired with various educational and scientific facilities, which raised them in warm environments with unlimited food.

That allows the turtles to grow faster, making them less vulnerable to predators when they're released.

The turtle can grow to 10 pounds and a foot in length. In Massachusetts, they're found only in ponds in Plymouth County.

Source:  The Republic

Monday, May 14, 2012

World Turtle Day 2012 Is Coming!

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 10, 2012

Box Turtles and the Endangered Species Act

The box turtle's domed carapace is hinged at either end allowing it to box in its head and tail safe from marauding claws. This adaptation and its brown and tawny camouflage have served it well, individuals often living 80 years or more. Then we came with our roads and vehicles crisscrossing its habitat so fast we rarely notice its spring mate-searching or egg-laying journeys. Terrestrial by nature, it will cross roads more often than a painted turtle which finds its mate in the water and swims, feeds, and basks there all summer. Most box turtles spend their days feeding on plant and animal life within 2 to 8 acres of woods or fields returning to a bedding place every night, burrowing into the leaf litter come winter; a few wander long distances.

Usually in May or June, as long as four years after mating, the female (her underside is flat, his slightly concave) travels, as much as a mile, to open sandy ground to dig a hole for her eggs, usually four to six. These will hatch in two to three months. The hatchlings head out in search of food, such as beetles and caterpillars; as they grow older adding plants and mushrooms.

Hungry foxes, coyotes, skunks or raccoons devour many of the eggs. They too must eat, but we have tipped the balance, our suburban landscape and garbage encouraging skunks and raccoons to proliferate and allowing coyotes to be added to the mix.

About 10 years ago a long-time Lakevillian reported to the Planning Board that he had once spotted 30 box turtles on the acreage of a proposed development. A few months later the bulldozers began. I visited and found a box turtle on a pile of dirt, an intersection to be. I moved him, but turtles always resume their intended journeys so who knows where he went. Hopefully, if he survived construction and traffic, he is not trapped in a box in someone's kitchen, cursed by his physical charm.

Must every tract of open land that gets developed bring box turtles closer to disappearing from Lakeville where once they were plentiful? To the delight of some, dismay of others, our legislature passed the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (MESA) in 1990 hoping we might share land with its older inhabitants. As with most laws, the process of establishing and administering regulations is complicated and sometimes contentious. Someone must determine which creatures are dangerously declining. (Box turtles have been classified as a "species of special concern.") Next, the areas where the creature still lives must be determined. Then, based on biologists' searches and citizens' reported sightings, the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program draws polygons on regulatory maps indicating the creature's habitat. Periodically these maps are revised with new information. If someone wants to construct a significant project within one of these polygons, his plans must be sent to NHESP where biologists will puzzle out if the project will be detrimental to the protected creature. If so, they will work with the applicant to figure out how the project and the creature can coexist.

Such regulations seem onerous in the context of property rights, but water and wildlife do not accept our boundaries. We can be proud to live in a state where we are keeping this in mind.

For more information on turtles, MESA, and how to report a box turtle sighting see:

Year of the Turtle, David Caroll


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Turtle Roadway Mortality Monitoring Program

Citizen Scientists Needed To Monitor Turtle Crossings

Turtles have existed for millions of years, but roadways are threatening the survival of local populations.  Turtles in Massachusetts often cross roadways late spring to early fall and are vulnerable to car collisions.  Ambitious citizen scientists, turtle enthusiasts, and conservation organizations are encouraged to join state wildlife and transportation personnel in collecting data for the Turtle Roadway Mortality Monitoring Program.  Linking Landscapes for Massachusetts Wildlife, a recent partnership between the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW), Department of Transportation (DOT) Highway Division and UMass-Amherst, trained volunteers to collect data in 2010 and is expanding its volunteer program by offering two citizen scientist information and training sessions in Amherst and Westborough. These sessions are designed to train new volunteers, acknowledge current volunteer efforts, and share results from the first year of data collection. The information gathered through this volunteer effort will be used to coordinate local turtle conservation efforts.
The information and training session will be held on Wednesday, May 16th, 2012 at the United Methodist Church, 6 Holmes Road in Lenox starting at 6:30 pm.  The event will be cosponsored by Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT) and Project Native.  The sessions are free, but pre-registration is required.  Interested volunteers can register with Dave Paulson at or call him at (508) 389-6366.

Light refreshments will be provided.

For additional information please contact:
David Paulson, Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, MassWildlife
Tim Dexter, Environmental Services Unit, MassDOT Highway Division