Monday, November 10, 2014

Critically Endangered Sea Turtles Stranded On Cape Cod

QUINCY (CBS) — Biologists at the New England Aquarium’s rehab facility in Quincy are nursing nearly a dozen sea turtles back to health after they were stranded on Cape Cod beaches.

Senior aquarium biologist Adam Kennedy says they start to see turtle strandings on the Cape every year around this time as the temperatures drop.

“These turtles are warm-water animals,” he said. “In the summer, Cape Cod Bay is a great place, it’s warm.”

But when fall arrives and the turtles are supposed to head south, Cape Cod’s unique shape creates problems.

“The arm kind of acts as a trap,” Kennedy said. “They don’t understand they have to go north to get around the Cape to go south again.”

Eleven critically endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles were found cold and hungry, but all are expected to survive.

“What we’re seeing are turtles with cold body temperatures in the mid-to-high 50s, animals that probably haven’t eaten in about three to four weeks,” Kennedy said.

The focus is to slowly raise the turtles’ body temperature back to the mid-70s while getting them to start swimming and feeding again, Kennedy said.

“All the turtles so far, once they’ve entered the water, have started doing what turtles do – trying to swim,” he said. “Which is a good sign.”

Biologists hope to release the turtles into the wild from the south coast of the Cape in a few months.

Kim Tunnicliffe

Source:  CBS Boston

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

‘Turtleland’ Receives State Protections

Conservation land in Groveland and Georgetown, known to many as “Turtleland,” has been purchased by the state to create permanent open space.

Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game purchased 96 acres of land $795,000, bringing the agency’s area holdings to approximately 170 acres. The land was acquired through state open space bond funds and the Wildlands Stamp Fund. The Wildlands Stamp Fund receives $5 from the sale of each freshwater fishing, hunting and trapping license sold in Massachusetts.

“This property and the surrounding land is exceptional habitat for many different types of turtles and other wildlife,” said Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Mary Griffin. “I thank our partners for helping us to protect habitat, restore wildlife and provide recreational opportunities for people such as fishing, hunting and wildlife observation.”

According to the state, the conservation area is noted for reptiles and amphibians, abundance of wetland areas and undeveloped nature. It is one of the top habitats in Massachusetts for the threatened Blanding’s turtle and salamanders. Many common wildlife species, including white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, waterfowl, beaver, spotted turtles and snapping turtles also inhabit the area. The property contains three certified vernal pools, a large beaver pond, Grindle Brook and a stream.

Source: WHAV

Friday, May 23, 2014

World Turtle Day!

Today is World Turtle Day!

World Turtle Day, May 23, is an annual celebration of turtles and tortoises, but it's also an occasion to raise awareness about their disappearing habitats around the world. Having thrived for more than 200 million years, these endearing creatures are certainly worthy of celebration and awareness.

“Turtles are not as popular as cats and dogs, so interest, awareness and understanding is pretty slim,” says Susan Tellem, co-founder of American Tortoise Rescue. World Turtle Day was started 14 years ago by the ATR, who have rescued and re-homed over 3,000 turtles since Tellem and her husband founded the organization in 1990.

“This day is a good way to educate people about how to care for turtles, and to learn what danger they’re in and how to be more aware of what they need,” Tellem says.

Read the article in its entirety HERE.

Monday, May 19, 2014

What to do with jaywalking turtles?

May 19, 2014
To the editor:

As you drive around Rochester, you’ve probably noticed turtle crossing signs. But this time of year many drivers are encountering turtles crossing the road in unmarked places! Obviously, like many residents of Massachusetts, Rochester turtles flaunt the law and just jaywalk at will. What is a driver (or walker or biker) to do with these flagrant lawbreakers?

First, it might be best to identify the culprits. There are basically three members of the ancient (220 million years of history) order of Testudines, turtles, one might encounter in Rochester. Snapping turtles can be found near any wetland. They look menacing with a dark carapace (shell) often draped with algae, long nails, hooked beak and thick tail as long as its shell, not to mention its reputation of snapping and holding on. The carapace can measure up to 18 inches and the largest ever caught in Massachusetts weighed 76.5 pounds. Painted turtles are seen basking in rows on logs and rocks in any wetland in the spring. It is probably our most abundant turtle. Its dark olive to black carapace is bordered top and bottom with red and black designs. Its bottom shell (plastron) is usually yellow but may have markings on it. The legs and tail are usually red and black and the head is yellow and black. Finally, there are Eastern Box turtles, which are more tortoise like, although they also use wetlands. They have a high domed carapace with a brown to black background and yellow to orange marking in varying patterns. Its plastron is yellow to olive with varying black blotches or lines. It is also hinged so that the turtle may completely close itself up if it senses danger. There are some other kinds of turtles that may be found in Rochester, they but are extremely rare.

So why do these turtles cross the road? Well, like the chicken, to get to the other side. In the spring, the females are searching for somewhere to lay their eggs. One theory is that they can smell disturbed earth, especially sandy or gravel banks. Another theory is that they are returning to where they hatched. Whatever the reason, the proper etiquette if one sees a turtle in the road is to first do nothing to endanger your safety. If it is a snapper, you can just watch and wave off traffic or, if brave, grab a stout stick, let it snap on and drag it by the mouth to the other side where you can leave stick and turtle to sort it out. But if it’s a box turtle or painted turtle and traffic is light and you have the time, watch it. If you are in a hurry and think it might be hit by another car, pick up the turtle and carry it in the direction it was heading to the other side of the road. You might think it might be better to put it back in the wetland it came from or to bring it home to a safe place. Don’t do it. It is on a mission!

The bottom line is if you can do this small act of kindness to help a fellow creature without endangering yourself, please do. Remember Karma is always watching. And if you get to see where she digs and lays her eggs, you might want to cover the area with chicken wire to prevent predation of the eggs. But more than that, any encounter with a wild creature is a special occasion. The chance to observe and interact with a bit of our wild world is a wonderful thing. Embrace it. We are lucky to live in a town where this is possible to see and appreciate so much wildlife.

This tongue in cheek bit of education was brought to you by the letter T and the Rochester Open Space Committee, who thought you might like to know! If you have turtle or other nature related questions, you can call the Conservation Commission at Town Hall Annex.

Rochester Open Space Committee

Source: The Sippican Week

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Endangered Species Act Protection Sought for Rare Turtles and Salamanders in Northeast

BOSTON--(ENEWSPF)--April 15, 2014.

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today for failing to determine whether five increasingly rare northeastern amphibians and reptiles warrant consideration for Endangered Species Act protection. The Center first petitioned for these species — the wood turtle, spotted turtle, green salamander, Peaks of Otter salamander and white-spotted salamander — in July 2012 because habitat loss and other factors are threatening their survival.  

“These turtles and salamanders are irreplaceable parts of the wild where they live, whether it’s a remote mountain stream or a suburban wetland,” said Collette Adkins Giese, a Center biologist and lawyer focused on protecting amphibians and reptiles. “Losing them will impoverish those places and our own connection with the natural world.”

Due to habitat destruction, toxic pesticides and other human causes, scientists estimate 1 in 4 amphibians and reptiles is at risk of dying out. This loss is alarming because the animals play important roles as predators and prey in their ecosystems and are valuable indicators of environmental health.

“There’s broad scientific consensus that amphibians and reptiles face a profound, human-driven extinction crisis that requires prompt action,” said Adkins Giese. “The Endangered Species Act has a nearly perfect record of stopping animals from going extinct — it’s hands-down our best tool for saving rare amphibians and reptiles.”

The Center was joined in its petition for these five species and other amphibians and reptiles by several renowned scientists and herpetologists, including E.O. Wilson, Thomas Lovejoy and Michael Lannoo. And more than 200 scientists sent a letter asking the Service to review the status of the petitioned animals.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is required to make an initial finding within 90 days of receiving a petition about whether protections may be warranted — but more than a year and a half later, the agency has not acted. The 90-day finding is the first in a series of required decisions and simply requires the Fish and Wildlife Service to determine whether the petition presents sufficient information to warrant further consideration, a process that requires few agency resources.

Wood Turtle

Species Highlights
Wood Turtles (Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin): Hurt by the pet trade, channelization of rivers and streams, careless timber-harvesting practices along waterways, urbanization, and agricultural practices including pesticide use, the wood turtles’ remaining populations tend to be isolated, greatly reducing the chances of their natural recovery in areas where their numbers have plummeted. Traditionally low survival rates among juvenile wood turtles have been made worse by the increased prevalence of turtle predators, such as raccoons and skunks, which thrive in urbanized areas. Wood turtles have an unusual feeding behavior: They stomp their front feet to cause earthworms to come to the surface.

Spotted Turtles (Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, Vermont, West Virginia): A small, black turtle with yellow spots on its smooth shell, the spotted turtle is an attractive animal that’s another unfortunate favorite in the pet trade. It ranges from southern Ontario and Maine southward from the Atlantic coastal plain and piedmont to northern Florida and westward through Ontario, New York, Pennsylvania, central Ohio, northern Indiana and Michigan to northeastern Illinois. The turtle has likely suffered a 50 percent overall reduction in population size, with much of this loss irreversible because of habitat loss.

Peaks of Otter Salamanders (Virginia): Known only to a 12-mile stretch of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Peaks of Otter salamanders have one of the most restricted ranges of any salamander in the United States. These darkly pigmented, 5-inch-long salamanders with brassy metallic spots occur only in mature oak and maple forests at high elevations, a trait that makes them particularly vulnerable to climate change. Because Peaks of Otter salamanders are confined to a single ridge top, they are unable to shift their range upslope as the climate warms. While the habitat of these salamanders is offered some protection in the Jefferson National Forest and on the Blue Ridge Parkway, activities like logging continue to threaten their viability.

Green Salamanders (Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia): While the range of the green salamander encompasses the entire Appalachian region, it exists only in habitat fragments with remaining populations experiencing extirpations and significant declines. The only member of the “climbing family” of salamanders east of the Rocky Mountains, green salamanders are found on rock outcrops and in arboreal habitats. During the spring and summer, breeding females require cool and moist narrow crevices in which to suspend their eggs, and in fall, the salamanders congregate near deep rock crevices for use during winter hibernation. The salamanders are threatened by logging, road construction, mountaintop removal mining, impoundments, overcollection for the pet trade and climate change.

White-spotted Salamanders (Virginia, West Virginia): This salamander has a narrow range in the Shenandoah, North and Great North mountains, in George Washington National Forest, Virginia and West Virginia. Its populations are declining and its occupied range is shrinking, mostly due to habitat loss from logging of the old-growth forests upon which it depends. At night these opportunistic carnivores feed on the forest floor during wet conditions, and in day they are found under rocks and logs or in burrows.

Spotted Turtle

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 675,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Help Turtles Cross the Road

How to handle a Snapper

When handling any live animal, it is important to always keep two safety issues in mind: first is the safety of the person who is searching for or holding the animal, and second is the safety and welfare of the animal itself.
It is a common misconception that a Snapping Turtle may be safely picked up by its tail, with no harm to the animal; in fact, this has a high chance of injuring the turtle, especially the tail itself and the vertebral column. A handler must also be wary of injury to themselves. Snapping turtles are aptly named, as they can snap with amazing speed and power; a full grown snapper can easily nip off a finger. The safest method, of course, is to avoid handling a snapper at all. If moving it is absolutely necessary, scooping and lifting the turtle just off the ground with a shovel (especially a snow shovel), if done quickly, may be safest and easiest for all concerned parties.
Lifting the turtle with the hands is difficult. Some snappers can stretch their necks halfway back across their own carapace. Manual lifting (which should be done only if no other options are available) is best accomplished by sliding fingers behind the turtle's hind legs, with the tail between the hands and gripping the turtle between the fingers and thumbs. The handler then proceeds to lift the turtle only just off the ground. The turtle will probably squirm and try to dislodge the handler's hands with its hind legs. Even a small snapper is relatively powerful for its size, with long sharp claws; further, due to their aquatic inclinations these turtles are often slimy and wet, and they are good at causing prospective handlers to lose their grip. In any case that a snapping turtle must be handled, it is best to have the turtle on the ground or very close. Wild turtles may be covered with a smelly pond slime and may also defecate, urinate, or musk on a handler.

More information HERE.