‘Citizen scientists’ needed to study turtles

Habitat Acquisition Trust hope people will keep an eye out and report sightings of western painted turtles

Christian Engelstoft

A grandmother of a turtle tottered her way across Oldfield Road, narrowly escaping an encounter with a mini van. An alert neighbour spotted the endangered turtle May 31 and helped her cross safely to her nest on a nearby grassy slope.

She’s a well-known old lady on Oldfield near Nicholas Road. Habitat Acquisition Trust is conducting a scientific road threat assessment for western painted turtles in order to help stabilize this rare and declining population. They expect the elderly resident has faced near misses with vehicle traffic since she hatched from an egg in 1971.

“We suspect road mortality is a huge threat for the populations around here,” said Todd Carnahan, land care co-ordinator for HAT. “We haven’t really focused a lot of attention up there because there are so many other hot spots. [But] if there’s one, there’s lots more.”

Painted turtles are known to live near Elk and Beaver lakes, Langford Lake and Great Central Lake near Port Alberni. While the species lives in many other places, their presence is often unknown. Work in 2009 to restore Adam Kerr Park brought turtles back to the surface of that ecosystem.

“Peninsula Streams, one of our partner groups, did a bit of hydrology work to create a wetland … [and] a turtle showed up and used it,” he said. “We discovered the workers next door had found at least two turtles … We are gradually restoring links to habitats.”

Vancouver Island’s only native freshwater turtle is vulnerable around pets and vehicles when laying eggs on land. Racoons, otters and pets are known to eat the the eggs and baby turtles. HAT is looking for solutions to these threats and citizen scientists can play an important role in our research.

“Thanks to landowners that have helped us find turtles, we are gaining a better understanding of their distribution and preferred habitats. We need to learn more about their movements on land during the summer nesting season,” said Christian Engelstoft, a HAT herpetologist participating in the study.

If you see a turtle in Central Saanich feel free to snap a photo, but please don’t take it home.

“Please don’t touch the turtles unless they’re in mortal danger,” Carnahan said. “Everybody’s got a story about a turtle that’s lost, but it’s not lost unless you pick it up and abduct it.”

Turtles dig nests up to 300 metres from their aquatic habitats.

“The most information we get is from citizen scientists. Whether it’s on water or a road, dead or alive, we want to hear about it because that’s critical research,” Carnahan said.

Citizen scientists can send turtle photos and report sightings to todd@hat.bc.ca or call 250-995-2428.


Did you know?

Painted turtles have a low and smooth upper shell. While the turtle’s upper shell is dark green, the underside features striking orange to red patterns that give them the name painted turtle. Hatchlings are no larger than a loonie, while adults can reach 25 centimetres in length and can grow to the ripe old age of 50.

Just Posted

‘Norovirus-like’ outbreak interrupts Bantam hockey showcase in Greater Victoria

Several athletes were sent home, quarantined on the ferry

Expect rolling street closures, bus delays as truck convoy moves through region Saturday

The annual Truck Light Convoy will roll through the region starting at 5:45 p.m.

Single mom caught up in Langford rental scam could be homeless for the holidays

Man took $3,900 cash for deposit and first month’s rent then disappeared

Sidney Concert Band strikes up seasonal note with fundraiser for young musicians

Money raised from the Dec. 9 show benefits 676 Kittyhawk Air Cadet Band program

VIDEO: Boys help rescue Cariboo bear cub

The cub, weighing just 24lbs, has been taken to wildlife sanctuary in Northwest B.C. for the winter

Greater Victoria 2019 holiday craft fair roundup

Get a jump on your holiday shopping

Miller nets winner as Canucks edge Sabres 6-5 in OT

Roussel, Leivo tally two apiece for Vancouver

$578: that’s how much your first distracted driving ticket will cost with recent premium hikes

Over 50 per cent of Canadians admitted to using phone while driving last year, according to study

Kelowna man attempts to steal bait bike from RCMP parking lot

38-year-old Brian Richard Harbison is facing several charges

‘Things haven’t changed enough:’ Ecole Polytechnique anniversary prompts reflection

Fourteen women were fatally shot by a gunman at the Montreal school on Dec. 6, 1989

Bear raids freezer, gorges on Island family’s Christmas baking

Hungry bruin virtually ignored meat and fish, focused, instead, on the sweets

Second warning on romaine lettuce from California region as another E. coli case reported

Two cases of E. coli have been reported in relation to the illness in the U.S.

Most Read