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Scientists Begin Hunt for Western Pond Turtles

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: May 20, 2021 1:30 pm

Western Pond Turtles

An adult western pond turtle

Photo Credit: Oregon Zoo

Scientists have put out a call searching for the land that can be surveyed for the western pond turtle. Property owners in Yamhill County are looking for streams, ponds and wetlands which may harbor more of the endangered turtles.

Yamhill County currently has the lowest documented records of turtles in the Lower Willamette watershed which impedes conservation across their range. New research led by biologist Laura Guderyahn and supported by a grant from the  Oregon Zoo Foundation aims to map the location of these turtles.

"We'll be looking for turtles on public and tribal lands throughout Yamhill County, but to get a more complete picture of where they live, we're hoping a few Yamhill County residents will allow us to survey their private property," Guderyahn said. "We're looking for properties with streams, wetlands or ponds that are a quarter-acre or larger in size."

If you can help the study you can fill out a short form here – Oregon Zoo Turtle Survey

It is hoped that data collected during the project will improve habitat and wildlife connectivity within the watershed. If land is confirmed to house western pond turtles it may be eligible for restoration and land improvement funding.

The survey will be conducted for free and for data collection only. There are no obligations beyond the survey.

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"Turtles are decomposers, so they break down a lot of the dead, dying and decaying matter that's in a wetland and return it back to that ecosystem," Guderyahn said. "Their presence also indicates the health of ecosystems. If we see fewer and fewer turtles, there's probably something unhealthy in either that aquatic or the terrestrial habitat."

Oregon Zoo work as part of the Metro Family to help make greater Portland a great place to call home. They support programs with the California condor, western pond turtle, Oregon silverspot and Taylor's checkerspot butterflies and northern leopard frogs.

This survey is one of four programs being supported through the Oregon Conservation and Recreation Fund.

"Conservation starts at home, and most of the zoo's efforts to save species focus on the Pacific Northwest," said Julie Fitzgerald, executive director of the Oregon Zoo Foundation. "Generous gifts from our members and supporters help the Oregon Zoo make our state a better place for wildlife, people and the habitats we all depend on."

Western pond turtles previously ranged from Baja California to Puget Sound. At present they are listed as endangered in Washington and a sensitive species in Oregon. At the start of the 2000s as few as 100 were thought to remain in Washington.

Since then 1,500 zoo-reared turtles have been released through the Western Pond Turtle Recovery Project. This is a collaborative breeding effort being run by Oregon Zoo, Woodland Park Zoo, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bonneville Power Administration, USDA Forest Service, Friends of the Columbia Gorge and other partners.

Western Pond Turtles

A juvenile western pond turtle

Photo Credit: Oregon Zoo

Learn more about Turtles here – Turtle Fact File | The Animal Facts

Learn more about the Oregon Zoo on their website – Oregon Zoo

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