Bergton is in the southernmost range of the Wood Turtle, Glyptemys insculpta, and so, not only is it a species that needs more attention by conservationists, but, if over the course of this project, we see an increase in the wood turtle population in the area, we know we did something right.
At the beginning of the turtle survey portion of our project, students were trained to use mark/recapture analysis on wood turtles by Tom Akre of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. In this image we see students following Tom to the beginning of our survey. Each survey involves walking one kilometer of stream in approximately one hour with multiple people each covering a different portion of the stream in search of turtles.
The was the very first wood turtle caught by a student on that day. The wood turtle has a very distinctive coloring around its neck and legs. This color gets even brighter as it comes time to find a mate. Though these turtles spend much of their time on land, in the winter, when the air temperature drops lower than the water temperature, the turtles enter the water and find a mate. When the air temperature rises above the water temperature again in the spring, the turtles will leave.
In the above three images, we see Tom going through the processing of the turtle with the students. Each turtle is weighed, aged, measured, and then marked. The first image depicts one of the measurements done on the turtle, the second image shows the weighing of the turtle, and the third image shows the marking of the turtle. Groves are filed into different areas on the carapace to indicate different numbers. The reason that turtles are marked and numbered is so that when that turtle is recaptured we can obtain that data, and over time we can estimate populations in different areas and how they move.
This was the very first wood turtle to be found in the Bergton Area this year. Unfortunately we had just stumbled upon it and didn’t process it because we had not yet begun doing our own turtle surveys.
Here is the plastron of the first wood turtle found in Bergton while on a turtle survey. The black splotch found on the turtle is a leech.
This turtle has an interesting story. She was found with a male whom she was about to, or had, mated with. Though in this image she looks as if she is smiling, she is actually extremely upset with us and this image depicts her hissing. She was extremely active and the male whom we separated her from didn’t come out of his shell the entire time we were handling him.
This is the same turtle from above. She has lost one of her front claws. We are unsure of what happened, but it might have been from a car or an encounter with a predator.
Male wood turtles will often times have stubbed tails because they fight for mates and bite at each other’s tails.
Being in the southern region of the wood turtles’ range, this project provides a unique opportunity to observe the effects of stream restoration on wood turtle populations. So far the wood turtles found have been minimal, and thus any increase in population due to restoration will be monumental in learning about the species.