Close to four dozen baby spiny softshell turtles were collected last autumn by Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department Biologist Steve Parren. They over-wintered at ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center, at the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain under the care of ECHO’s Animal Care staff. In late June a group of volunteers and staff released the turtles back into Lake Champlain. This marks the seventh year of this important animal preservation program.
The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife’s mission is “the conservation of fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the people of Vermont.” This includes everything from moose to turtles. As more and more nesting habitat for turtles disappears due to lake shore development, Steve Perrin, the coordinator of the non-game and natural heritage program, has been researching ways to protect nesting habitat for several turtle species.
Spiny Softshell Turtles are part of Vermont's natural heritage. But these shy creatures are at risk of vanishing in both Vermont and Quebec due to waterfront development of their natural habitats. There are only two know nesting sites of this turtle in Vermont. But even though the sites are posted, turtles are still killed every year by careless individuals. The Lake Champlain Basin Science Center recently rescued some baby turtles from damaged nesting areas. They were raised at both the center and the Ecomuseum and Montreal. We recently joined members of the center for the turtle's reintroduction to their original nesting sites.
Wood turtles have been a part of Vermont's diverse wildlife for the past ten thousand years. These moderately sized turtles with reddish-orange skin and roughly textured shells may live 60 years. But despite their long history, concern for this species is on the rise in the northeast due to the turtles' region-wide decline. Humans are the main cause of this. As more housing and commercial development takes place near streams, rivers and wetlands, turtles loose habitat. The building of roads through turtle corridors creates a dangerous situation for the creatures. In addition, wood turtles have been removed from the wild and kept as pets by individuals unaware that they were seriously impacting the turtle population. The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department monitors wood turtle populations by tagging selected turtles with radio transmitters in an effort to learn more about how they adapt to the changing landscape. We venture out into the field with Steve Parren, chief of the department's Nongame and Natural Heritage Program (NNHP) to track tagged wood turtles.