Archive for category Western Pond Turtle
This summer I had the honor of being invited to give a presentation on western pond turtles at the Napa County Library as part of the Wild Napa lecture series, a monthly event put on collaboratively by the Napa County Resource Conservation District, the Napa County Library, and Friends of the Napa River. This is a presentation I’ve given before, but this time I was surprised when I was asked in the eleventh hour whether they could record the talk to share with the public. The result is the video I’m pleased to link to below.
Fortunately for me, after two minutes and change, I fade out into a shadowy figure. Better yet, I bring out a live western pond turtle at the end of the presentation. But with a running time of an hour and fifteen minutes, I can’t blame you if you skip to the end; unless, that is, you are trapped in an elevator, or camping on a sidewalk in line for the next Apple smartphone release or American Ninja Warrior tryouts. So no worries if you don’t watch the whole thing – I think we can all agree the promise of seeing a live turtle really only works in person.
Here’s the teaser, followed by the video:
Imagine a time in California’s history when California cuisine was truly a natural, grass-roots effort. Not the vegetarian dives, nor the seasonal menus of Chez Panisse fame, but a living-off-the-land sort of lifestyle: succulent frog legs, a seabird-egg custard, or a piping-hot bowl of terrapin soup. It’s true; at the turn of the twentieth century, the west coast’s lone native turtle – the western pond turtle (or terrapin as it was once known) – once featured prominently on menus throughout San Francisco for soups and stews.
Join wildlife biologist Matthew Bettelheim to explore the history and natural history of the western pond turtle. This trip through time will roughly follow the discovery and description of the western pond turtle by first Russian explorers and later European naturalists in the 1800s, then Native American accounts of collecting the turtle for sustenance and ceremonial purposes, and next the extensive terrapin harvest at the turn of the twentieth century centered around the San Francisco market. In addition to the colorful stories that surround the rich and as yet untold history of San Francisco’s terrapin trade, we will also examine the western pond turtle’s present struggle to persist in what little remains of its former west coast range and review the growing body of natural history data and contemporary research before peering into the future of turtle conservation.
This spring, the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation and The Wildlife Project are back at it, sponsoring the Rare Pond Species Survey Techniques Workshop, March 19-20, 2016 at the Laguna Environmental Center, Santa Rosa, CA. Workshop instructors Dave Cook and Jeff Alvarez will cover aquatic survey techniques for California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense), California red-legged frog (Rana draytoni), and western pond turtle (Clemmys marmorata). After-hours field trips will provide hands-on experience with all three species, including dip net sampling, spotlight surveys, and visual encounter and trapping.
Dave and Jeff, whom I’ve known for years, are experienced herpetologists who have logged inestimable hours in the field between them studying these species. Their knowledge is priceless, but the workshop worth every penny.
This spring, the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation and The Wildlife Project are sponsoring the California Tiger Salamander Terrestrial Ecology Workshop, March 18, 2016 at the Laguna Environmental Center, Santa Rosa, CA. Workshop instructors Dave Cook and Jeff Alvarez will cover the terrestrial ecology, land use management, and regulations of the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense), as well as a review of the species’ biology, upland habitat use, and migration patterns; the theory and design of roadway under-crossings; pitfall trap arrays design; Agency-approved survey protocols; and implementing and monitoring land use management practices. The afternoon will consist of field trips that will provide training and hands-on experience. A pitfall trap and fence array will be constructed by attendees. Three CTS tunnel systems along roadways will be visited and discussed. Instructors for this workshop include Dave Cook and Jeff Alvarez. An afternoon field trip will provide training and hands-on experience with the species, as well as pitfall trap array construction and a visit to three roadway under-crossings.
In recent years, the western pond turtle (Actinemys marmorata) has shown signs of decline along the Pacific Coast, especially at either end of its range in Washington and Oregon to the north, and in southern California. Among the threats currently facing the species today include upland nesting and aquatic habitat loss/conversion; water diversion; drought; disease transmission and competition from invasive species like the red-eared slider; and predation from non-native species like the American bullfrog and large-mouth bass.
In July 2012 the Center for Biological Diversity filed an Endangered Species Act petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, appropriately called the Petition to List 53 Amphibians and Reptiles in the United States as Threatened or Endangered Species Under the Endangered Species Act, including the western pond turtle as one of the 53 candidate species. After review as part of an (extended) 90-day Findings process to determine if there is enough information to warrant further review, on April 9, 2015 the USFWS announced in a proposed rule that there is sufficient evidence to suggest the western pond turtle’s situation warrants a formal status review, and will undergo the subsequent 12-month Findings process for consideration as a federally Threatened or Endangered species in all or portions of its range (see also the CBD’s press release, here).
Those individuals with scientific and commercial data or other information pertinent to the potential listing of the western pond turtle should submit all information before TOMORROW, June 9, 2015 in accordance with the instructions provided in the proposed rule.
It has been a while since I last updated the How You Can Help Western Pond Turtles brochure I developed several years ago in response to an inquiry from a San Francisco Bay Area resident who stumbled across a western pond turtle at her front door. But with this year’s drought, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and wildlife rescue centers has been flooded by well-meaning citizens who don’t know what to do when they see a turtle out of water. So in response to CDFW’s timely outreach campaign to, “If you care, leave them there!” and redirecting viewers to the educational brochure, it seems like now is as good a time as ever to update and recirculate this public outreach tool.
This full-color, tri-fold brochure describes our local turtle, describes what to do if you find a turtle, and provides guidance to private landowners and public land managers alike on the best ways to protect and conserve western pond turtles through proactive land stewardship. My goal with this project is to distribute a tool to the public that provides consistent guidance: protect and conserve suitable aquatic and nesting habitat, curb invasive species, and leave healthy turtles in the wild where they belong.
And it’s free! So download the revised .pdf, print, and distribute.
I encourage wildlife rescue/rehabilitation centers, state and federal agencies, parks and refuges, land trusts, and wildlife biologists to share this resource with the public. If readers drop me a Comment (below) with their organization’s name to let me know they wish to print and distribute this brochure, I’ll create a register with links to the participating parties’ websites.
As the list of western pond turtle educational resources evolves, I’ll continue to post them on the new Educational Material section of (bio)accumulation‘s pages dedicated to the western pond turtle. There, you’ll also find the Field Guide to the Western Pond Turtle, a diagnostic poster that illustrates the western pond turtle’s general field markings and the traits that distinguish males and females.