Western Pond Turtle

"From the Ponds"

Vol. 1 No. 4 & 5 - August 15, 1999

Western Pond Turtle- Main Page

From the Ponds Main Page.


The Bimonthly Electronic Newsletter of the Western Pond Turtle Project in Washington State

By Kate Slavens

Vol. 1 No. 4 & 5
15 August 1999

SORRY I'M LATE. In fact, everything was late this year. The weather turned cool just about the time the nesting was supposed to start and the turtles had to hold on for an extra couple of weeks. We do, however, have lots of good news to report.

FIRST, THE BUDGET has had four major events. The Washington Department of Wildlife ALEA grant came through for the biennium (July 1, 1999-June 30, 2001) with flying colors. Our volunteers will be covered for the next two field seasons with some of the money dedicated to transmitters. The Woodland Park Zoological Society Conservation/Education Fund also has promised a two-year grant for basic operations (not specifically designated) and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Partnerships for Wildlife has come through with the money to pay for our "paid" personnel in the field. Thanks are in order to Harmony Frazier for her patience and support and Dana Payne for putting together a Power Point slide presentation for the WPZS Conservation/Education Committee. A last minute bit of good news is that the American Zoo and Aquarium Association Conservation Endowment Fund has reinvested in our project for another year, covering off-season work, the "Wanted Poster/Brochure" and projects at Woodland Park's Education Department. We are indeed grateful to Frank Hein for assisting with the grant proposals during a time when we were in the field chasing female turtles. I need to sit down with the budget and figure out just what is covered and what isn't for 2000, but it looks very good. We will be able to continue for the next two years, at least at a basic level. More about this in September.

ALTHOUGH THE WEATHER DELAYED THE TURTLES' NESTING ACTIVITIES, our volunteers were in the field checking them every two hours anyway. For the volunteers who thought the first two weeks in June were going to be filled with nesting turtles, maybe next year. A special thank you is due to Rico Walder, who flew up from Tennessee to volunteer one of those weeks. We appreciated the help, but you know Washington and the unpredictable weather we have. Our first nest finally came on June 12. Between that date and July 15, we protected 18 nests, the same as 1998. If the weather holds through September, we should have close to 100 little hatchlings for head-starting. We were able to video two of the nesting females, and although there is more suspense than plot, they are very interesting, especially the end when the females are disguising the nests. Of special note, we were able to capture the first turtle that hatched in 1990 and was the first to be released after head-starting. He is now a young adult male, and a bit of a rover. He has definitely learned the layout of the ponds and seems to be practicing his charms on a certain female in Pond G.

Every field season has its down side. On June 19, at 6:30 a.m., a fire was discovered in a field north of the Klickitat County lake. It was very bad timing that a female had nested in that field the night before and was still at the edge of the field in the morning. She was killed by the fire, and her nest has not been found. A second, much larger (800 acre), grass and brush fire occurred on July 2 to the west of the study site and threatened us, but the fire fighters stopped it about l/2 mile away. The lack of rain during May, June and July caused Pond A to reach a critically low level. It became necessary to hire a local fellow to dig all the vegetation out of the ditch that feeds water to Pond A from a spring. Water is now running into the pond again and hopefully, we were not too late.

A TOTAL OF 104 HEAD-STARTED TURTLES were released into the ponds in eastern Washington with another four turtles for the ponds at the Lakewood complex in western Washington. Wally and his crew are busy with a redo at Southwest Holding to make the room hold more turtles and be more efficient for the keepers. He is also working on the "Protocol" for head-starting western pond turtles, based on everything we have learned since 1990. He also has just about completed the "Protocol for Head-starting Western Pond Turtles". I have also heard that three of the captive-bred turtles have started to hatch.

WE WELCOME THE ADDITION OF THE OREGON ZOO (formerly Metro Washington Park Zoo) in Portland, Oregon to our project. They are setting up a special room to help with our head-starting. They should be ready to take some of the hatchlings this fall, easing some of the potential crowding at Woodland Park Zoo. Sometimes we worry about being too successful in the field and finding too many nests. With the two zoos, our worries should be over.

JUST AS THE TURTLES WERE LATE NESTING, SO FOLLOWED THE BULLFROGS. Louis was able to find and destroy 114 egg masses in 1999. It was fewer than 1998, but the weather provided the frogs with fewer opportunities for egg laying. Louis's dedication is remarkable. He not only showed up every day from Memorial Day weekend until early August, but even went home for a wetsuit to get the few masses that were out of reach of the waders. He is just another example of the excellent quality of people on the project.

THE PUGET SOUND SURVEY for western pond turtles was somewhat hampered by the unseasonably cool and rainy weather. Based on the reports that have been received, we may only have two sightings in the area. These will be followed up and trapping is planned for September and possibly again in the spring at the two sites. As soon as all the reports are received, I will be able to prepare a report on this year's survey and plan for a follow-up survey in 2000.

THE BROCHURE AND "WANTED POSTER" are still just coming along. Schedules conflicted this summer and we were only able to exchange ideas by E-mail. We should be meeting in the next week to work out all the text and prepare a first draft that can be available for comment. The AZA grant will allow us to print more copies and expand the distribution.

THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE has completed the comment period for the "Washington State Recovery Plan for the Western Pond Turtle" and Dave Hays is putting the finishing touches on it. The goals may seem high and it may take many years to accomplish, but with this "plan" as our guide, we have a much better chance of success. I will get copies for the volunteers, but others will have to contact the department to get one.

THE NEXT NEWSLETTER should be coming out in late October. Once we know how many eggs have hatched and have final numbers for all the field work, we'll pass it all along.

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Frank & Kate Slavens
P.O. Box 645
Lyle, WA 98635

To send Frank or Kate an e-mail, our addresses are: frank@pondturtle.com or kate@pondturtle.com

Pages first went up in October 1995.

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