So last year, the city's Natural Area Preservation program gave snapping, painted, and red-eared slider turtles a safer option: artificial nesting sites in Scheffler, Bandemer, Dolph, and Gallup parks. Look for the three-feet-tall mounds of sand and mulch with the "Do Not Disturb" signs.
From late May through mid-July, female turtles emerge from the water in search of soft, loose soil to dig a nest and lay ten to 100 eggs (depending on the species). They cover the nest and leave the baby turtles to hatch on their own two to three months later. According to NAP herpetologist Patrick Terry, "turtles face a lot of predation on their nests from raccoons. And also because their habitat is really fragmented, there aren't a lot of places for them to lay their nests." Even those that hatch and make it to adulthood often are killed crossing roads to nest, so turtle populations are declining.
At NAP's turtle steward program kick-off on April 13, Terry will teach volunteers to identify six local turtle species and the slight depressions and claw marks that indicate a turtle nest. Stewards will weed the mounds, monitor them for nests, and install square wooden boxes covered with mesh to protect the eggs from raccoons and other predators. The volunteers will also patrol roads to identify turtle crossings and count and monitor turtle populations.
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