Western Pond Turtle

"From the Ponds"

Vol. 1 No. 6 - October 25, 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


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

Vol. 1 No. 6 - 25 October 1999

Editor: Kate Slavens

FOR ALL PRACTICAL PURPOSES the 1999 field season is history. All the eggs that are going to hatch have hatched, and it is time to analyze all the data and add up all the numbers. Everyone who helped with the project can be very proud of a job well done.

OUR BUDGET continues to look very good for the year 2000, but we are still sending out grant proposals to help expand in several areas. We certainly have grown since our first budget of $5000 in 1994, and our success has also grown accordingly.

TO RECAP THE FIELD SEASON, we located 17 pond turtle nests, resulting in 71 live healthy hatchlings, now in quarantine at Woodland Park Zoo. The Oregon Zoo is also ready for a delivery of hatchlings as soon as they pass quarantine. If you recall, the first nest count was 18, but when that last nest was opened, 17 little western painted turtles looked back. They are being head-started privately and will be released in the spring. Frank can be especially proud of the success of the nest that was moved from a very public area in Skamania County to a safer site in Klickitat County. He dug a fine nest, gently packed the 6 eggs into the chamber and made a plug that any female turtle would be proud of. And for those of you wondering, no he didn’t. Fresh, clean water works just fine, and the five fertile eggs hatched successfully. This experiment has proven that nests can be moved if necessary. All of the nests were not that successful. One was predated by moles or some other varmint, so nothing but a few pieces of egg shell with dried yolk remained. Two nests in Skamania County also failed to hatch, leading us to suspect failure following a 2-inch rain in early August. It appears the embryos stopped developing at about that point.

ANOTHER FIRE, the third for this season, threatened the Klickitat site in August but was stopped just before it reached us. Luckily no turtles were threatened this time. Unfortunately we did lose one female in the first fire. We also lost two other females this year. One young animal suffered a crushing blow at the Skamania site (and she was not near any road). The last was a large, old female from Pond A who may simply have died of old age. There were no other clues. Of special interest, if this was the case, she had 7 eggs inside which would indicate fertility throughout their natural adult life. This has been a subject of discussion many times, and proof is hard to come by.

THE DITCH was a complete success, keeping water flowing into Pond A throughout the summer, although plants are already starting to establish themselves in the bottom. We may need to do more maintenance on the ditch in the coming years to keep it open.

WITH WINTER COMING, by October 1 we already had 5 out of the 15 transmittered females in Klickitat County out of the water. They were walking around, hunkered under leaves and even dug down in the leaf litter. By late November, they should have settled on their hibernation site and these will be flagged and have temperature sensors inserted into the soil next to the turtles. Our new temperature sensors, which are completely waterproof, should work perfectly for this.

WE HAVE ALMOST CERTAINLY CHOSEN A THIRD SITE in the Columbia River Gorge area for future releases of pond turtles. This site, a national wildlife refuge, has a small population of western painted turtles and will be a secure location for a third population in that area. We hope to begin releasing pond turtles in 2000 or 2001, as there are a few habitat adjustments that need to be done first.

THE CAPTIVE BREEDING program at Southwest Holding produced 5 hatchlings this year of western Washington genetics. Speaking of genetics, we now have found a person at the University of Puget Sound who will run our samples. We should finally learn how the Puget Sound area turtles and those from the Portland area compare. If they are similar and compatible, we will be able to include the Portland turtles at the zoo in the release program.

I AM STILL WAITING for all the reports to come back from the volunteers in the Puget Sound survey. We have located and captured an adult male south of Olympia thanks to Kelly McAllister. He, the turtle, is a feisty fellow and is currently in quarantine at Woodland Park Zoo. The possible sighting in south King County will have to wait for spring to follow-up with surveying and trapping. It is a strong lead and we are very hopeful.

THE FINAL “WASHINGTON STATE RECOVERY PLAN FOR THE WESTERN POND TURTLE” has been published by the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife. We will be sending out copies to the volunteers in a couple of weeks. If you want a copy, please send your request to: Manager, Endangered Species Section, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091.

THE WANTED POSTER/BROCHURE is now out to various people for comment. Hopefully, we will be able to put the final touches on the thing in about two weeks and get it to the printer. Additional grant money from AZA will allow us to print more copies and distribute it to more people. Also of mention, a donation from Turtle Island Foods in Hood River, Oregon will help cover some of these expenses. Thank you to all.

THERE ARE THREE WEB PAGES that now highlight our project. These include the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife at www.wa.gov/wdfw, Woodland Park Zoo at www.zoo.org, and Frank and Kate’s web page at www.halcyon.com/slavens. Our personal page already contains all copies of this newsletter, photos, and will be expanded with more text, a complete bibliography of literature about the western pond turtle, and the brochure.

EXCITING THINGS ARE HAPPENING IN THE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT at Woodland Park Zoo. They are in the process of writing a teacher’s packet about reptiles and amphibians in general, and the western pond turtle in particular. A workshop is planned for February and there will also be more docent training.

THE NEXT NEWSLETTER will be due around the first of the year, so enjoy all the holidays between now and then.

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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.

Copyright © 1996, 1997, 1998,1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 Frank Slavens

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